SAN DIEGO — For Jorge Ramos, the number 2 figures prominently in his biography.
The most popular Latino news anchor in America, who was recently dubbed “the undisputed face of Spanish-language broadcasting,” speaks two languages: Spanish and English. He feels at home in two countries: Mexico, where he was born in 1958; and the United States, where he has lived since 1983 when he came here on a student visa, and where he became a U.S. citizen in 2008. He works for two networks – Univision, the Spanish-language behemoth, where he co-anchors the nightly newscast and a Sunday political talk show, and Fusion, the upstart network created by Univision and ABC News, where he anchors a nightly newscast aimed at English-speaking Latinos.
Ironically, this is the same demographic Univision spent decades hoping the major networks would continue to overlook.
Finally, when navigating a U.S. political system that he doesn’t seem to fully understand, Ramos sometimes shows two faces.
He recently told Politico: “Journalists in the United States are very cozy with power, very close to those in power. They laugh with them. They go to the [White House] correspondents’ dinner with them. They have lunch together. They marry each other. They’re way too close to each other. I think as journalists we have to keep our distance from power.”
In May 2010, Ramos kept his “distance” by attending – along with other prominent Latinos such as New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, actress Eva Longoria and comedian George Lopez – a state dinner hosted by President Barack Obama for Mexican President Felipe Calderon. The guests feasted on herb green ceviche of Hawaiian opah, Oregon wagyu beef in Oaxacan black mole, and chocolate-cajeta tarts.
That menu is quite a step up from the ham sandwich and an apple that, according to an immigration lawyer I interviewed this week, Obama administration officials are giving twice a day to migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – mostly women and children, including toddlers – who are currently being warehoused by the Department of Homeland Security in detention facilities in Texas after streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Both Univision and Fusion are covering this story. But they’ve been more lax in covering the related story of the Obama administration’s deportation juggernaut. Why is it happening? Which types of immigrants are being removed that previously might have been allowed to stay – i.e., battered wives, unaccompanied minors, crime victims, etc.? When I watch the programs on these networks, I’m struck by the fact that such questions are rarely asked.
To think that before Fusion was launched in October, Ramos laid claim to the immigration story. “It’s going to be ours from the first hour,” he told The Huffington Post. “There’s no question about it.”
As someone who has written about immigration for nearly 25 years, I have a few questions. Ramos doesn’t seem to understand the complexity of the issue despite being an immigrant himself. From the anchor chair, and in interviews with everyone from New York Magazine to The Hollywood Reporter to Fox News, Ramos always explains the impasse in the most simplistic terms: It’s the Republicans’ fault.
Is Ramos aware that it was Democrats who, at the behest of organized labor, thwarted immigration reform in 2006 and 2007, passed an enforcement-only bill in 2010, and killed the DREAM Act later that year – when they controlled both houses of Congress? Does he realize that for every tea party member in Texas who wants to seal the border because he is afraid of losing his culture, there is a union member in Ohio who wants to do the same because he’s afraid of losing his job? Does he understand that Democrats, by opposing the idea of guest workers, ensure that no Republican will support reform? Does he understand that the main reason that Democrats need Republican votes to pass immigration reform is because conservative and pro-union Democrats don’t want to legalize the undocumented?
Ramos told Politico, “I’m not seeing tough questions asked on American television. I’m not seeing those correspondents that would question those in power. It’s like a club.”
During a recent visit to Washington, Ramos did grill both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The confrontation with Boehner made news; the one with Reid didn’t.
With Beltway journalists covering immigration by blaming Republicans, excusing Obama and parroting administration talking points, Ramos is correct about the media and politicians forming a club. But what he doesn’t see is that he’s a member.
Ruben Navarrette is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.