Jorge Ramos On Being A 'Stranger'

Feb 25, 2018
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Jorge Ramos is one of the most famous journalists in this country. He's an Emmy-winning longtime anchor at Univision. He's also a Mexican immigrant. He came to this country in 1983 to escape the censorship that would have suffocated his reporting. His decision to leave Mexico was, like it is for every person leaving their country of origin, a painful one.

JORGE RAMOS: I didn't want to be an immigrant. I wanted to grow up with my parents and with my brothers and with my neighbors and with the people I went to in college but I couldn't.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ramos has a new memoir. It's called "Stranger" because after 35 years in the United States, he still feels like a stranger here.

RAMOS: It is very difficult for me to define exactly, who am I? I have two passports. The border is really not that important to me. And then on the other hand, I'll never be - I have to admit that - I will never be American enough for Americans. And maybe I'll never be Mexican enough again to my fellow Mexicans, so I'm something in between. And when you have someone like Donald Trump when he was a candidate telling you, go back to Univision. Basically, he was saying go back to Mexico. Well, that changes everything.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to actually talk about that moment. This was a moment that actually became a signature moment for then-candidate Trump and yourself. We'd like to play the press conference where you had a confrontation with the then-candidate. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE).

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Go ahead.

RAMOS: I have the right to ask a question.

TRUMP: No, you don't. You haven't been called.

RAMOS: I have the right to ask a question.

TRUMP: Go back to Univision.

RAMOS: I'm a reporter, and I have - I am - don't touch me, sir. Don't touch me, sir.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You write in the book that you went to this press conference in Iowa to let Trump know that Latinos were being offended by what you call his racist comments. You thought - you wanted to give him a message about what Latinos were feeling.

RAMOS: He started his campaign with a racist remark. He said that Mexican immigrants were criminals, drug traffickers and rapists. And I knew right from the beginning that he was lying. He was not telling the truth. I decided that I wanted to talk to Donald Trump and confront him to tell him, you know, what you're saying about me and others like me - millions like me - is not true. At the end, of course, we know what happened. His bodyguard pushed me out of the press conference.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In the run-up to the election, you became a vocal critic of the president, and you predicted his defeat because of Latinos and what you saw as his lack of connection with the Latino community. That ended up not being true. What do you think that says about the Latino vote in this country? What do you think happened?

RAMOS: We made a mistake. I thought that more Latinos were going to go out and vote, and that didn't happen. Let me give you the numbers, which is really a tragedy. Twenty-seven million Latinos were eligible to vote, but only 13 million went to vote. So 14 million Latinos or 13 million Latinos decided to stay home. And that might have changed the election.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why didn't they show up?

RAMOS: I think they were upset with everyone. They were upset with Barack Obama and with Hillary Clinton, with the Democrats, with Donald Trump. And they didn't have a real choice for them, and they decided to stay home. Look. When Barack Obama became president, he promised that he was going to introduce immigration reform during his first year in office. And he didn't deliver. Not only that - Barack Obama deported 2 and a half million undocumented immigrants. Many people call him deporter-in-chief. So many Latinos - for many Latinos, when they had a choice of voting for the Democrats who didn't keep their promise and for the Republicans who were attacking them, they decided not to go to vote. And at the end, 3 million Hispanics voted for Donald Trump. And that also says a lot.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does that say?

RAMOS: Well, what it's saying is that we are not monolithic. But also, I think there's a divide within the Hispanic community, which is saying that some of the Latinos who came here as immigrants or the sons of immigrants have decided to turn their backs on the immigrants coming after them. And that's - for me, that's very, very sad.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you think that means going forward? We've seen Republicans - not only are they not courting Latinos. They're now standing behind the president and his plans to change the fundamental immigration policies of this country. The calculations used to be Latinos don't vote. And when they do, they're unpredictable. So therefore, they don't really matter.

RAMOS: Up to now. But I think what the Republicans are doing is political suicide because these are the facts. In 2044, every single ethnic group in the United States, everyone - non-Hispanic Whites, Latinos, African-Americans and Asians - everyone is going to be a minority. In other words, that demographic trend is not going to change. This will be a minority majority country. And then you have the Republican Party, who's attacking Latinos and who's attacking immigrants and who's now surrounding President Trump and seeming to defend almost everything that he says about immigrants and Latinos.

And in the future, what are you going to do when - we are about 60 million Latinos right now. But when in three decades, we are a hundred million Latinos. Many of them would've been born in the United States. Therefore, they have the right to vote. And when - at that moment, you really couldn't get elected without our vote. I think, again, it would be political suicide not to pay attention to what is happening right now with the Latino community.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have to ask you - in this book, at the end of the book, you talk about stopping being neutral. And this, of course, is a great debate within the journalism community at this particular point in time. Some have called you an advocacy journalist. Do you see yourself that way?

RAMOS: I'm just a journalist who asks questions. That's all. But I think we have two responsibilities. The first one is to report reality as it is, not as we wish it would be. So if something is red, I have to say red. And then we have a huge social responsibility, and that is to question those who are in power and to give voice to the voiceless. And at some point, when it comes to racism, discrimination, corruption, public lies, dictatorships or violation of human rights, when that happens, when you're confronted with that, I think that we as journalists have to take a stand and stop being neutral. Am I supposed to just sit down and be silent when the president of the United States makes racist remarks? Isn't it our role, precisely, to question him and to say, hey, Mr. President, that is not true. What you're saying is a lie. So yes, I think it is our responsibility as journalists when confronted with that not to remain neutral.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jorge Ramos - his new book is, "Stranger: The Challenge Of A Latino Immigrant In The Trump Era." Thank you so very much.

RAMOS: Gracias. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.