Can Jorge Ramos Save The Americam Immigrant Dream?

Univision broadcaster Jorge Ramos spars with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump before being booted from the news conference.

Univision broadcaster Jorge Ramos spars with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump before being booted from the news conference in Iowa Tuesday.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S DISAPPOINTING failure to champion immigration reform, what The Washington Post called his “immigration train wreck,” may be the consummate example of the failure of the Obama presidency on Latino issues.

It is also a tell-tale sign of the potential trouble the Democratic Party could find itself in politically, and an incredible opening for the GOP if it could ever decide to take the courageous steps needed to broaden its base and not fumble the opportunity.

Sadly, for Latinos, the 2016 presidential campaign could wind up being a repeat of the last eight years – broken promises from the Democrats, should they once again put immigration reform on the back burner, and frustration because any Republican presidency likely will have no mandate to make history on the same issue.

Whatever happens next year, count on Univision broadcaster Jorge Ramos to continue being the conscience of America on immigration reform, as he again showed himself to be in confronting Republican frontrunner Donald Trump Tuesday.

At a news conference in Iowa, Ramos attempted to grill Trump on immigration without having been called on by the candidate, and it led to fireworks that have been at the top of the political news cycle since then.

“You haven’t been called on, go back to Univision,” Trump said to Ramos, who soon was removed from the news confernce by security.

Trump and Ramos apparently have a negative history not unlike Trump’s with Fox newscaster Megyn Kelly, with whom he sparred during and after the GOP debate earlier this month – and on whom he has not lessened his criticism since then.

Ramos also is hardly non-partisan. His wholesale support of immigrants rights is well know, and he has acknowledged that his daughter now works on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Those leanings, however, never stopped him from his criticism of Obama.

“A promise is a promise,” Ramos famously reminded Obama over his failure to press for comprehensive immigration reform. “Una promesa es una promesa.”

Jorge Ramos’ own championing of immigrants has taken on a life of its own not only because of him being perhaps the best nationally known Latino advocating progressive immigration reform but also by the fact that Univision and its new Fusion network offer him the biggest platform enjoyed by any Hispanic leader.

It’s not that some Latino Democratic leaders haven’t also been critical of Obama’s broken promises, but their criticism has been understandably muted by comparison – their own party’s fate is at stake, after all.

Latino Democrats and partisans also are not about to call the president and their party’s leader a bald-faced liar, which is what Ramos effectively has done — and can get away with, perhaps because he’s not beholden to the Democratic Party but possibly because of that charming accented English of his that allows him to be harsher than he actually sounds.

Any other journalist might be accused of being rude, but not Jorge Ramos who perhaps should be called the linguistic Barack Obama. Like Obama at the height of his popularity in 2008, Ramos is a man of color whose presence and style don’t immediately alienate a white audience.

But Ramos does have some of those Latino Democratic leaders pulling at their hair because they fear that his criticism only adds more fuel to the fire potentially burning their party’s hopes of winning the White House in 2016 and possibly control of Congress.

Over the past year I have had a long dinners with influential Latino Democrats who visibly grimaced when talk turned to Jorge Ramos, his ongoing criticism of Obama’s immigration record, and the fact that the Obama presidency’s increasing unpopularity has become a glaring political weakness for the party.

What will it mean for the Obama legacy? How will he be viewed among other presidents? He has no international conquests like even Richard Nixon’s legacy leans back on, unless you count Osama Bin Laden’s killing, whose hunt began during the Bush administration. Today the country is torn apart over race, not only in Congress but across communities and its national culture. The economic recovery is overblown. The Affordable Health Care Act, remains a mixed bag of hope and promise, at best, like its namesake.

And immigration policies, on which there has been only limited improvement and no reform, have continued to leave Latino immigrants as second class American dreamers, with the Obama history of record deportations qualifying his administration as perhaps the worst of any recent president on immigration.

My Democratic friends have tried to downplay Ramos’ criticism the same way that many of Jorge’s critics have found it easy to dismiss him – that it’s Jorge’s own immigrant background speaking.

Ramos, 57, was already in his mid-20s when he immigrated to the U.S. His understanding of politics was groomed in Mexico, which in the minds of many Americans is a quasi democracy where imperial leadership and essentially a one-party political system formed Jorge’s views of political power.

That may be unfair to Ramos, who in the last three decades has become one of America’s leading journalists. But it doesn’t make him immune from sometimes sounding surprisingly sophomoric and naive, especially given his experience and when other political reporters weigh in their analyses of Obama and other candidates.

But the Democrats’ political considerations aren’t Ramos’ concern, nor should they be, any more than those of Donald Trump who has now assured that Jorge will be recognized even more so as a journalist one of my reporter friends calls “the Latino Edward R. Murrow.”

Perhaps, though, Jorge Ramos has more accurately fashioned himself as our Alexis de Toqueville, the 19th century French political thinker and historian whose writings on democracy in America form the backbone of assigned political science reading at U.S. college and universities.

For it may be the fate of yet another immigrant to help put this troubled nation of immigrants back on the right path to its destiny.

Support Our Journalism

Ensure that mission-driven reporting and investigative journalism that exposes abuses, rights wrongs, and holds the powerful accountable will continue to survive at a time when we need it most. Thank you for your support of the Tony Castro’s America blog!

Donate