Joe Biden

Interview with Tony Arias of Radio La Campesina

November 21, 2023

ARIAS: Señor Presidente, antes de todo quiero agradecerle por hablarle a la gente, a la comunidad latina por medio de las ondas radiales de Radio Campesina.

[AI Translation: Mr. President, first of all, I want to thank you for talking to the people, to the Latin community through the radio waves of Radio Campesina.]

THE PRESIDENT: I keep telling -- Everybody asks why I pay so much attention to the Latino community. 26 out of every 100 students in our schools -- kindergarten through 12th grade -- speak Spanish. If we don't pay attention, we're crazy. We're a nation of built-on diversity, and anyway -- but, I have no problem doing that. Matter of fact, I'm looking at a statue of Cesar Chavez, who almost cost me an election in 1972 when I ran. I supported him in Delaware, in agriculture areas. And we won -- Nixon won my state by 65% of the vote, and I won by 3,100 votes, but I keep the statue [Inaudible] keep looking at it.

ARIAS: Eso es lo que se trata, señor presidente. Hablando de la comunidad latina, sabemos que tiene un busto del señor César Chávez, nuestro fundador, en la Oficina Oval. ¿Qué significa para usted y por qué lo escogió para tenerlo ahí en la Oficina Oval?

[AI Translation: That's what it is, Mr. President. Speaking of the Latin community, we know that Mr. César Chávez, our founder, has a bust in the Oval Office. What does it mean to you and why did you choose to have it there in the Oval Office?]

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it represents, to me, progress. Look, the reason I got involved, and I don't want to make a big deal of it, like I wasn't some great savior, but I supported him, was because he's fighting for just basic human rights, basic decency. They were putting these farm workers in basically old slave quarters. Not a joke, they -- they weren't allowed to go into the town of Georgetown, which is the capital of the -- Sussex County. I mean, it's just wrong. But he stands for everything that -- by the way, his granddaughter is my campaign manager -- for the United States, is part of our strength.

ARIAS: No es un secreto para muchos de nosotros que la mayoría tenemos que trabajar más de un trabajo y vivir de cheque a cheque. La verdad, dado la inflación, no hay dinero extra para hacer cosas adicionales o guardar, tener una reserva. Mínimo eso es lo que me dice la gente que me debe.

[AI Translation: It is not a secret for many of us that most of us have to work more than one job and live from check to check. The truth is, given the inflation, there is no extra money to do additional things or have a reserve. At least that's what people who owe me tell me.]

THE PRESIDENT: Well look, I come from a family that's not dissimilar. I grew up in a family where we lived in a three-bedroom, split-level home with four kids and a grandpa. And my dad would come home for dinner and go back to work. So, you know, we weren't poor, but we had no -- no expendable cash. I mean, it was just... and even going to the Catholic school -- high school I went to, we had to borrow the money to get there, and I worked in the summer cutting the lawn to be able to go. So we weren't poor, but I don't want to make it out like I'm, you know... but I do understand that it's paycheck to paycheck. My dad used to say, "Joey, a job's about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about your dignity. It's about respect. It's about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, 'honey, it's going to be okay' and he meant it." And that's what I'm all about in terms of focusing on the growth of the middle class. When the middle class does well, everybody does. The poor have a shot up, and the wealthy still do fine, but they ought to start paying their fair taxes, I might add. But any rate, I -- I just think that we, -- I mean, look at all the great minds in the world, how many were Spanish speaking? How many are Latino? I mean, look at where... anyway, I just think it's we're being really very stupid and the way in which we handle immigration. And, you know, but my economic plan is working. There's 4.2 million more Hispanic Americans have jobs now than when I entered office two and a half years ago.

ARIAS: Y eso es una de las preguntas más grandes que los latinos tienen en nuestra comunidad sobre la reforma migratoria. ¿Qué ha pasado para poder finalizar y qué podemos esperar?

[AI Translation: And that is one of the biggest questions that Latinos have in our community about the migratory reform. What has to happen to be able to finish and what can we expect?]

THE PRESIDENT: Well look, I asked the same question, and the question -- the first major bill I sent to Congress was to reform the -- the immigration system. We are a country of immigrants. It's why we are strong. That is not hyperbole, that's a fact. And so, you know, what we're doing here is we're making sure that we're going to see to it that we have serious, serious effort to reform the immigration system. I proposed a comprehensive immigration reform on day one. We need Congress to act. My administration is providing a billion dollars in grant funding to support asylum seekers. We've secured record funding for border security and management. We continue to enforce the immigration laws, but we also... there's no reason why DREAMers shouldn't have a path to citizenship. I'm going to stay with it 'til, we get it done.

ARIAS: Y eso es lo que nos gusta escuchar, señor Presidente. Ahora, los estudiantes también están batallando. ¿Pueden esperar a ellos tener algún beneficio sobre los préstamos estudiantiles?",

[AI Translation: And that's what we like to hear, Mr. President. Now, students are also struggling. Can they expect to have any benefit on student loans?]

THE PRESIDENT: Hey, man, where have you been? I gave them a break. We, you know, the Supreme Court turned down my total debt forgiveness program, but I was able to see to it that I found other ways to move it. So I ended up with a situation where you've got millions of students have their total debt forgiveness. For example, we have a lower... We've lowered the burden of student debt. Since taking office, my administration has forgiven $127 billion in student debt for 3.6 million borrowers. We've doubled the amount for Pell Grants to get people to school. We've launched a thing called the SAVE program, the most generous income-driven repayment program ever. And we reduced monthly payments for millions of borrowers. We expanded access to early education. My budget secured a billion dollars -- a billion dollars for Head Start, and one in three beneficiaries for Head Start are Latinos. We expanded affordable high-speed internet for... I mean, we have done more for education for Latinos than any administration has, and it's real, and it matters.

ARIAS: Definitivamente es importante escuchar esto directamente de usted. Por eso en este día, en estos días, hay mucha información falsa y noticias falsas. Y corren y recorren por todas las partes del mundo. Imagínese nada más. Vi un video del presidente Obama vendiendo los tamales de mi tía Nachita.

[AI Translation: It is definitely important to hear this directly from you. That's why these days there is a lot of false information and false news. And they run and run all over the world. Just imagine, I saw a video of President Obama selling my aunt Nachita's tamales.]

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. [Laughs]

ARIAS: ¿Qué es el rol del gobierno en luchar contra la desinformación y la misinformación?

[AI Translation: What is the role of the government in fighting misinformation?]

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, yes, although, I saw one of me saying something that was off the wall. I couldn't tell it wasn't me. It was my... It lip-synced me perfectly. But my point is this: we're in a situation where we have enormous opportunity, enormous opportunity to grow the -- we have the fastest-growing economy in the world, the lowest interest rate in the world. I mean, we're doing better than any other major nation in the world. In the world. And one of the reasons we're growing and doing so well is because of the Latino community. It's not a joke. For example, I have more Latinos in my administration in the cabinet level than anybody else does. Four members of my cabinet are Latinos, more than any president before me. I made a commitment that I was -- when I became president, my government was going to look like America, and that's the case. I have -- and my senior staff across the board, and it looks like a country. It looks like a country. It looks Americans --

ARIAS: Le damos las gracias por tomarse el tiempo de estar con nosotros el día de hoy. ¿Algún mensaje especial que tenga, que quiera darle a toda la gente por el Día de Acción de la Comunidad Latina para todos aquellos que nos están escuchando?

[AI Translation: We thank you for taking the time to be with us today. Any special message you want to give to all the people for Thanksgiving Day for all those who are listening to us?]

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, the message is: don't give up hope. Hope springs eternal. I know it's hard. I know it's hard. I come from a family that's been down and out in the past. I mean, it just -- you just got to keep our heads up. I promise you, we're not leaving the community. We're not leaving the people who need the most, because they're the ones who built the country. They're the ones that continue to build the country. And so I'd say, just hold on to one another. As my mom would say, keep the faith. Keep the faith. I really mean it.

ARIAS: Pues mire, muchísimas gracias, señor presidente. La verdad que tengo que ir a echarle agua a los frijoles porque se me están quemando. Pero le recomiendo que si quiere hacer un cambiecito en su cena de Día de la Extensión de Gracias de Thanksgiving, le dé una calada a unos tamales de guajolote con su champurrado. No se va a arrepentir, la verdad.

[AI Translation: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. The truth is that I have to go throw water in the beans because they are burning. But I recommend that if you want to make a little change in your Thanksgiving dinner, have some guajolote tamales with your champurrado. You won't regret it, really.]

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't think I will either. I love tamales. So I'm not sure -- I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get that done, but we'll try. Well, invite me back. I'm like a poor relative. I show up. The wealthy ones never show up. The poor ones show up, stay longer than they should, and eat and all your food.

ARIAS: Aquí estamos humildemente. Esta es su casa. Bienvenido y muchas gracias.

[AI Translation: Here we are, this is your home. Welcome and thank you very much.]

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Bye bye.

Joseph R. Biden, Interview with Tony Arias of Radio La Campesina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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