Barack Obama photo

Radio Interview via Telephone with Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo

February 17, 2009


Q: Hello.

THE PRESIDENT: Who am I speaking with?

Q: Piolín.

THE PRESIDENT: Piolín, my friend, this is President Barack Obama.

Q: How are you doing? (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: I am doing good. I promised you that I would be on the show when I was President, and here I am on the show. (Laughter.)

Q: You promised me that you were going to be in the studio –

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I haven't gone to Los Angeles yet, but I should get credit for keeping my promise this way.

Q: Oh, yes, yes. (Applause.) Yes, but we're waiting for you because we are celebrating together. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: How have you been?

Q: Great, great, Mr. President. We have Mr. President Barack Obama with us. And thank you, Mr. President, for taking the time to speak with us today. And you make history — we're so proud. I know you are the President for everybody.

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Well, you know, it was wonderful being on your program when I was running. And now I want to make sure that we continue to reach out because you have so many listeners and I think that it's so important that the Latino community, the Spanish-speaking community, continues to stay involved in politics.

We've got a very tough economy and we just signed a stimulus bill today that's going to put people back to work and provide health care to people who don't have it. We signed the Children's Health Insurance Program. Now legal immigrants are able to get health care for the first time, which is something that the Latino community had been arguing for, for almost a decade.

And so I think we're making real progress, but we're going to have to keep on making sure that all of you are involved as much as possible.

Q: Mr. President, you know, I just want to begin by saying now, today is an exciting today. Congratulations on your accomplishment.


Q: And how soon can we expect to see the positive effect of the stimulus package?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that right away what you're going to start seeing is, first of all, states and local governments, they're going to be able to keep people in their jobs. There was — the budgets are so bad at the state level that people who were teaching in schools, or police officers, or firefighters, a lot of people were going to be fired from their state jobs. And so we're going to be able to keep those jobs open.

We're also going to be making investments and rebuilding roads and bridges and school construction, and that's going to put a lot of people to work, especially people who are in the construction industries. With the housing market in such bad shape, they've been out of work. Now, hopefully, some of these construction jobs will become available again. It will probably take six months to a year before we start seeing a big impact, but at least we've now gotten the process moving so that we can start doing a lot better than we've been doing over the last several months.

Q: So that means, Mr. President, that now that you have signed the stimulus package, I'm going to receive a raise, a pay raise?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, the — you, Piolín, are already making so much money that you probably won't get a pay raise. (Laughter.) You know, but for people who aren't as rich as you, I think that they've got a good chance of getting help –

Q: I've been playing, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Well, and the other thing is, you know, the — a lot of people who've been laid off of their jobs, they need unemployment insurance. And what this bill does is it makes sure that they keep on getting unemployment insurance. It means that they have a easier time keeping their health care, even if they've lost their job. So it's really going to provide a lot of relief to people who need it.

Q: Mr. President, how will the stimulus package help persons who are losing their homes, and how will it benefit those who want to buy a home for the first time?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's actually a separate piece of legislation that we're going to be announcing tomorrow. And the key there is to make sure that we work with the banks and the homeowners to try to reduce the monthly payments that they make. And so I'll be announcing that program, but it's something that should help a lot of families who are making their payments, but are having a much, much tougher time because home values have gone down so drastically. So we'll have an entire separate home program — housing program that we're going to be announcing tomorrow.

Q: Thanks a lot, Mr. President. We have Mr. President Barack Obama with us. And let me tell you this, Mr. President; I'm sure you know, but it's important to let you know once again, we make a big contribution to our country from all across art, music, labor. And most important a lot of Hispanics are in Iraq defending the United States, even without being American citizen.


Q: We need your help.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I've said every time I've been on the show, Piolín, we're going to make sure that we begin the process of dealing with the immigration system that's broken. We're going to start by really trying to work on how to improve the current system so that people who want to be naturalized, who want to become citizens, like you did, that they are able to do it; that it's cheaper, that it's faster, that they have an easier time in terms of sponsoring family members.

And then we've got to have comprehensive immigration reform. Now, you know, we need to get started working on it now. It's going to take some time to move that forward, but I'm very committed to making it happen. And we're going to be convening leadership on this issue so that we can start getting that legislation drawn up over the next several months.

Q: Mr. President, is there some sort of network we could establish to be in communication regarding the comprehensive immigration reform, and personally what can I do?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, the key thing right now is obviously we've got to make sure that all the people who are involved in immigration reform issues, that they sit down together and they start thinking about how we're going to approach this problem. Politically it's going to be tough. It's probably tougher now than it was, partly because of the fact that the economy has gotten worse. So what I've got to do is I've got to focus on the economy, I've got to focus on housing, and make sure that people feel a little bit more secure; at the same time, get the various immigrant rights groups together and have them start providing some advice in terms of what strategies we're going to pursue in Congress.

Q: That's one of the things, Mr. President, I would like to happen. I'm working for media and knowing that our people worked so much. And, you know, they came out from the houses, going to work — scary because they don't even know if they're going to be deported. And can we try to establish like a signal, like a network — for example, I like what you did with the financial — financial people, that you set it up, for example — the newspaper from LA, is part of that — those groups of advisors, financial advisors that you put — I like the idea. How can we have kind of like the thing where I can receive information? What do we need to do so we can receive a comprehensive reform?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we've got some wonderful people on my White House staff who are working on this issue on an ongoing basis. And what we'll do is we'll make sure that one of those people can appear on your program on a regular basis, giving you information about what we're doing. And hopefully at some point you'll be able to come visit us at the White House.

Q: Any time, Mr. President. And I would like to be there when you sign the comprehensive immigration reform.

THE PRESIDENT: All right. Well, thank you so much, Piolín. It's great to talk to you.

Q: Mr. President, you know we are close friends and you know that I have your BlackBerry phone number and you have mine. (Laughter.) So keep in touch.

THE PRESIDENT: You know I will. Thank you so much. Tell everybody in the studio I said hello. I had a great time when I visited you, and everybody there was so nice. And you were very nice to my wife, as well, when she was on the program. So thank you so much, Piolin. Take care.

Q: Take care, Mr. President. You know, you are in our prayers. You have our support, and we want to help in any way we can.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thank you, guys. Bye-bye.

END 1:57 P.M. MST

Barack Obama, Radio Interview via Telephone with Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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