On Friday evening, Univision News’ new anchor anchor Enrique Acevedo spoke with President Barack Obama about some of the country’s most pressing issues at the moment.
Below is a transcripts on Obama’s comments on immigration reform and the Trayvon Martin case.
Enrique Acevedo: Mr. President, excuse the personal note, but I grew up in a generation that has lived with the unfulfilled promise of immigration reform, and I’m not that young. And do you think if you are reelected you will be the President that gets it done? And can you promise you’ll do it within the first year of your second term?
President Barack Obama: I can promise that I will try to do it in the first year of my second term. I want to try this year. The challenge we’ve got on immigration reform is very simple. I’ve got a majority of Democrats who are prepared to vote for it, and I’ve got no Republicans who are prepared to vote for it. It’s worse than that. We now have a Republican nominee who said that the Arizona laws are a model for the country; that — and these are laws that potentially would allow someone to be stopped and picked up and asked where their citizenship papers are based on an assumption.
EA: Racial profiling.
PBO: Very troublesome, and this is something that the Republican nominee has said should be a model for the country. So what we need is a change either of Congress or we need Republicans to change their mind, and I think this has to be an important debate during — throughout the country. What I’ve said to Latinos across the United States is that my passion for this issue is undiminished; that when it comes to, for example, the Dream Kids who have been raised as Americans and see themselves as Americans and want to serve their country or are willing to work hard in school and start businesses or work in our laboratories and in our businesses, it is shameful that we cannot get that done. And so I’m just going to keep on pushing as hard as I can, and what I’m going to be encouraging is the Latino community continue to ask every member of Congress where they stand on these issues, but the one thing that I think everybody needs to understand is that this is something I care deeply about. It’s personal to me, and I will do everything that I can to try to get it done. But ultimately I’m going to need Congress to help me.
EA: Finally, Mr. President, why is it that half a century after the Civil Rights Movement and after the American people elected their first African American President do I have to stand today here in front of you and ask you about racial tensions in the U.S.? And of course, I’m referring to the Trayvon Martin case.
PBO: Well, I think we all understand that issues of race are deeply embedded in the history of this country. Sometimes that history has been tragic, slavery, Jim Crow, but also more recent examples of anti-immigrant sentiment, and you know, I think what I always tell people is that, you know, my election alone is not going to completely transform attitudes because this has to do with hearts and not just minds. It has to do with attitudes, not just laws. On the other hand, I think we have to take heart from the fact that things have changed profoundly since I was born, and you know, when you see the next generation, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and their friends, their attitudes are more enlightened than the attitudes of my generation. So with each successive generation there are going to be misunderstandings; there are going to be tensions; there’s going to be tragedy sometimes, and what’s important for us to do is to look at it honestly, look at it squarely, but then move forward. And that’s part of the reason why issues like immigration reform are so important. We’re a nation of laws, but we’re also a nation of immigrants. We draw strength from our diversity. The fact that I can talk to you as President of the United States; you’re a major television anchor, both of us having backgrounds that 20, 30 years ago wouldn’t have existed in these positions. Well, that tells a story of American progress and American strength because what it means is we have connections to Colombia and Latin America and Africa and Asia, and that’s part of our influence around the world, is that we’re not just one type of people. We’re one people, but we come from many places, and we need to build on that strength in order to win the future.