Between signing the stimulus bill into law and traveling to Canada, President Barack Obama found time Wednesday to fulfill a campaign promise: he went back on the air with the nation’s most popular Spanish-language radio host, Los Angeles-based Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo.
In addition to the usual jokes and amiable bantering, the phone interview produced a small bit of news that only The Associated Press’ Spanish-language service seems to have caught: Obama told Sotelo he would call on immigration leaders in the next few months to begin preparing “a draft” proposal for comprehensive immigration reform.
Update: NPR show Tell Me More posted audio of the original interview here. You can listen to it by pressing Play.[audio:http://pd.npr.org/anon.npr-mp3/npr/tmm/2009/02/20090219_tmm_obamablog.mp3]
Obama said it is necessary to start working on reform now, because getting it passed will take time. But he said he was “very committed” to making it a reality.
“Necesitamos comenzar a trabajar en ello ahora. Va a tomar tiempo avanzar eso (la propuesta), pero estoy muy comprometido de que eso se concrete”.
[The website of Piolín’s station, La Nueva 101.9, doesn’t feature transcripts or audio from past shows. The only version of the interview available online is in Spanish, and not having heard the original conversation, we prefer not to include lengthy direct quotations in English, which could be inaccurate.]
The president also said that getting new immigration laws passed will be difficult. Because the U.S. economy is in worse shape than two and three years ago, when immigration bills failed in Congress, he said it would be even more difficult to pass one now.
Obama called on pro-immigrant organizations to propose ideas on how to pass the reform through Congress. But, he added, before concentrating on immigration reform, he will focus on improving the system for legal immigration.
Since Obama took office, and in the middle of the economic crisis, pro-immigrant advocates have been waiting to hear concrete news from the White House on when the administration will begin to move forward on immigration reform. During his presidential campaign, Obama had said he would address the issue during his first year in office.
As one Los Angeles-based columnist wrote yesterday:
With good reason, (the activists) remind the president that when he was a candidate he promised he would fight to push an immigration reform to end, among other calamities, the raids and deportations that cause so much suffering because they break up our families.
…the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, said the deportation program must be revised. But so far the raids continue to terrorize entire communities.