Ray Suarez, NewsHour correspondent

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Host José Cárdenas interviews Ray Saurez, senior correspondent of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Saurez discusses the changing face of America.

>> José Cárdenas:
Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. He's worked as a journalist for several major networks and now works as a senior correspondent for the Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. Tonight, a discussion with Ray Suarez on the changing face of America. Also the story of a clinic in Tucson that provides medical services for Mexican children born with severe deformities. Ray Suarez, a senior correspondent for the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" has a resume that most journalists dream about. He's worked as a reporter for CBS radio, a producer for ABC radio, a host for NPR, and is a reporter for various American and British news services in London. His essays have been published in leading national newspapers. He also has written a book entitled "The Old Neighborhood... What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration." Tuesday night Suarez was the keynote speaker at the A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on race held at Arizona State University's Gammage Auditorium. His talk was entitled "The Changing Face of America." With me tonight to talk about that is Ray Suarez. Mr. Suarez, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." I would like to start with a little bit of background about yourself. Tell us about your roots.

>> >> Ray Suarez:
Well, I'm a Brooklyn-born Puerto Rican, went to -- all through school in New York, and then headed out into the world to work as a reporter.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
How did you become a journalist? Your background was in African studies and urban affairs. What led you to journalism?

>> >> Ray Suarez:
I always knew I want to be a journalist and decided that the best thing for me would not be to major in journalism, because it's just -- I don't think that that's the best way to go for future journalists. It's much better to prepare yourself in an academic discipline and then work as a journalist. So I worked in college radio all four years of college, I edited the college newspaper, and then went off into the world to sell my skills, and --

>> >> José Cárdenas:
Well, you've certainly made your mark in the world. Tell us about some of the big stories that you've covered.

>> >> Ray Suarez:
Well, I covered the wedding of prince Charles and Lady Dianna Spencer, the attempted assassination of the Pope --

>> >> José Cárdenas:
You were in Rome at the time?

>> >> Ray Suarez:
Yes. And that was, obviously, a terrifying time but also a very exciting time, because the solidarity trade union movement was rising in Poland, the cold war was still hot and ferocious, you had an eastern European Pope sending encouragement to the antigovernment forces in his home country, making the Soviet Union crazy. You had the United States under Ronald Reagan putting medium-range nuclear missiles throughout western Europe and an uprising of opposition to that move. This was, I guess, the last thrashing chapters of the cold war, and I got to see it in Europe. I covered the trip of the Pope to Britain during the Falklands War, the reelection of Margaret Thatcher, the troubles in northern Ireland, the movement for freedom in South Africa, devastating drought in southern Africa. A lot of great stories over the years.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
What are the two or three that stand out the most so far in your career?

>> >> Ray Suarez:
Well, definitely the first all race elections in South Africa. It was a country that could have very easily fallen into Civil War and mass bloodshed, and instead stopped when it was on the verge of doing that, and through leaders, black and white, who knew that going into a spasm of blood-letting wasn't going to way that this country was going to emerge as a coherent country. They stopped. They put on the brakes, and they did it peacefully through ballots instead of shooting each other. Something to watch. Really something to watch.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
Sounds a little bit like what we're looking at right now in Iraq. Any thoughts on the similarities perhaps in terms of the possibilities of Civil War and the hopes that we can get through this and establish a democracy there?

>> >> Ray Suarez:
Whenever you take an authoritarian state and history is full of examples of when you -- a place is tightly wrapped and nailed down and you take off the wraps, there's often chaos, and it's no surprise that there's chaos in Iraq. There's a lot of score settling. There's a lot of backlash aimed at American forces. But also a lot of unhandled business inside Iraq that the United States has nothing to do with that because the wraps are off people can go at each other's throats now. So it's not that easy. And the Hussein regime was in charge for so long appear whole generation, two, really, of Iraqis came of age under that kind of system. So things don't settle out that quickly or that easily in a country like that.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
Closer to home, you spoke earlier this week at the A. Wade Smith memorial electric lectures, professor Smith was a sociology professor who tragically died young. His career was devoted, though, to improving race relations here. What was your focus at the lecture and what was your reaction to the audience?

>> >> Ray Suarez:
Well, I was the first Wade Smith lecturer who wasn't an African-American and brought, I think, a slightly different focus from the really world prominent black scholars who have spoken in the series. I was looking at how immigration was changing America and spent some time in the lecture focusing specifically on the meteoric rise of Latino numbers in the United States and trying to give the audience a sense of what that might for the country in the 21st century. It's going to be a different place because of sustained high rates of immigration, decade on decade on decade, but I was trying to reassure people by not removing this event in our national life from history. A lot of people who are upset about high levels of immigration and upset about who's coming here look at it in isolation, rather than as something that we've done before, and the last time we did this was roughly from 1880 to 1920 when we had high and sustained levels of immigration from places in the world where people had never come to the United States before, and at that time there were people who worried about the future of the country, whether America would be able to stay American, and it did, we did it, we managed the trick, and I just wanted to remind people that we had done it before and that all of the aspects of our national life that helped us do it before are still with us today.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
You mentioned that you were the first non-African-American to speak at the lecture. Do you think that had anything to do with the fact that Latinos are now the largest minority group having surpassed African-Americans recently?

>> >> Ray Suarez:
I think the committee that runs the lecture series understood that when you say the phrase race relations, which is after all the theme of the lecture series, race relations can in 2004 take in a lot more than just black-white relations which have really been the dominant motif of the 20th century. At the beginning of the 20th century W.E.B. do boy said the problem of this century will be the problem of the color line, and he was right. The liberation of black Americans was the great American project of the 20th century. But we've got a lot more complex tasks ahead of us now because race relations no longer means just black-white.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
You talked about the lessons that history has for us, and I understand that in one of your speeches this week you talked about Chicago and the Mexican population there. Can you expound on that a little bit?

>> >> Ray Suarez:
I talked about a how a large number of Mexicans came to Chicago fleeing the Mexican civil war around 1910 and they settled in the south part of the city where a lot of the steel mills were and they went to work in the mills just as America was gearing up for World War I and had steady work for many years after that. And at a time when we're questioning whether Mexican immigrants to the United States will assimilate, will become Americans, those Mexicans far from the border regions, far from the regular cross-border commerce that we think of as flavoring life in Nogales and El Paso and San Diego, assimilated. They did it comfortably and over time. They became part of the institutions of Chicago life. And nobody really asks that question anymore about the south Chicago Mexicans.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
People are asking the question as you indicated, perhaps most prominently, in terms of recent years, Samuel Huntington of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies who insists this is different in that the assimilation isn't occurreding. What do you say to that?

>> >> Ray Suarez:
I read the Huntington article and I found it fascinating because he is trying to this latest migration from the patterns of history, he asserted that it's different, but he didn't bring a lot of ammunition to the table. I was reading it and saying, okay, I get your point, you're saying it's different, that this time they're not going to become Americans. Why do you say that? What evidence are you putting in circulation to back that idea up? And I guess in that sense I left the article feeling like I wanted to understand why he was so sure when there are plenty of social scientists and researchers who are marshalling arguments on the exact opposite side of the spectrum from Huntington, saying that English language acquisition is not any different in this latest generation of immigrants as it was in any previous generation, even with the presence of two 24-hour Spanish language television networks which are available to over 90% of the Spanish speaking population in the country, the wider and widening availability of Spanish-language newspapers, the near ubiquitous availability of Spanish language radio and other forms of commerce. Even with those things that you would argue, could argue, are aids to remaining MONOlingual Spanish speaking, English language acquisition is proceeding on, and each at the front in end of this most recent immigrant wave, the children of those immigrants speak English to each other. They speak Spanish at home to their parents, certainly, but they speak English to each other at school.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
You yourself have been recorded as say saying there is a difference in terms of this immigrant wave. You said that -- this was a promo to your speech about talking about how Latin immigrants are establishing a lasting and growing presence unlike other immigrant groups. What did you mean by that? Is it the constant refreshment of numbers --

>> >> Ray Suarez:
That's exactly it. If you graph the arrival pattern of every other major immigrant wave of the last 150 years, there's a run-up, a spike, a subsidence, and then an almost complete Petering out, whether it's Germans, Irish, Italians, eastern European Jews. They all had a run-up, a peak, a subsidence, and then a diminishment to tiny numbers. What that does is it allows the people of the spike to find their way in America without a constant replenishment of new arrivals, which creates a cultural situation where eventually there is over generations the loss of the language, over generations there is the loss of reliance on native language media in order to be informed about the state of the world. There used to be newsstands in major American cities a hundred years ago crammed with papers in Russian and Yiddish and Italian and Swedish and Polish and on and on and on. Well, eventually the pattern was -- what happens is they start as daily newspapers, and Polish, for instance, there was a daily newspaper in Chicago quite late into the immigrant experience in Chicago. This Polish Daily Sun, and eventually it became a weekly, and it went from being a fat weekly to being a skinny weekly, and then the crackdown of martial law in Poland, terrible social tumult in Poland a whole new wave of immigrants come and suddenly the Polish daily sun is once again an important newspaper. The Russian language newspaper in New York, new world, hung on by it's fingernails through decades, and then suddenly a huge influx of Soviet Jews came as a result of the thawing of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, and now it's once again an important newspaper. In my parents' neighborhood in Brooklyn, I have to try hard to find the "New York Times." I got to get past Il Progresso and all these other newspapers. Ah, the "New York Times," finally, I can pull that off the shelf. So pattern is going to be different this time because -- and it's funny, because it's a surprise to a lot of people, too. In 1990, people were doing market research and surveys and advising broadcasters that Spanish language television was not a long-term viable mass market product.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
Now they have a different opinion?

>> >> Ray Suarez:
Now they have a different opinion.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
Let me switch from recent immigrants to Latino voters. You talked about surprises. A recent poll by the Miami herald came one some things that people are surprised by. The lead paragraph, and I'd like to get your reaction, abortion rights advocates, born-again Christians who support the death penalty, and speak more English than Spanish at home, not your typical portrait of Hispanic voters. And yet that's apparently what the poll revealed. What's your reaction to that?

>> >> Ray Suarez:
Not a surprise at all. The things that people say about this vote, this block, this group, many of them are true. They are both people who support small government, less intrusive government, and sometimes because of memories of oppression by governments in their own home countries. But they also want high social spending and more spending on schools and housing and things like that. Both things are true but in slightly different ways.

>> >> José Cárdenas:

One of the posters, John Zagbi, said that it's always intrigued him that Hispanics agree with Democrats on issues but with Republicans on values. Do you think that's an accurate description of the Hispanic vote center.

>> >> Ray Suarez:
I think that's a reasonable description and it's what gives hope to both parties and why both parties are going to spend a great deal of money and organizational time because Democrats believe and have long believed that Latino voters are natural Democrats, and Republicans have believed for some time that Latino voters are natural Republicans. I guess in 2004 we'll see who's right or who's righter. The lion's share of the vote has always been won by Democrats.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
Let me ask you a quick question. We have only about a minute left. The role of minorities in the media and how media portrays them, some quick comments on that.

>> >> Ray Suarez:
I think things are a lot better than they used to be. You are likely to see young Latin fellas doing other things besides putting their hands on the top tops of squad cars. I think you're seeing more frequent non-fiction portrayals that don't involve gang members and pimps and drug dealers. On the news, especially in those markets where the Latino presence is large and increasingly felt culturally, you're seeing involvement in a wide array of roles, law enforcement, in politics, as educators, and that's only a good thing that can nuance the understanding of who we are in the 21st century among the wider population. Somebody besides drug dealers and gang bangers.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
Ray Suarez, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." It was an honor to have you with us.

>> >> Ray Suarez:
Appreciate it, thanks.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
A group of volunteers is helping needy families from south of the border. St. Andrew's children's clinic treats disabled children. Producer Pam white reports the children come from all over Sonora to get their treatment.

>> >> Pam White:
Once a month extraordinary things happen at a church on the U.S. side of the border in Nogales. There won't be any praying or sermons. Still, many make a tremendous sacrifice to get here hoping for salvation.

>> >> Newsmaker:
They come to you. You don't have to look for them. They come in from Guadalajara, from Oaxaca, Sinaloa, all over Mexico.

>> >> Pam White:
Inside the parish, already businessing helping those who have come, lots of volunteers. They cook, clean, do clerical work and drive families back and forth to the border. They are also medical specialists. People like Francisco Valencia, Jill Feldhausen, and Tracy Oberg. Their time and hearts are devoted to treating disabled children from Mexico's neediest families.

>> >> Newsmaker:
This family came from -- their drive was about 10 hours to get here. And they've been pretty faithful in coming up every six months. Their child has cerebral palsy, which is a disease that limits his -- the use of his muscles.

>> >> Pam White:
Many people come because they've heard about the miracles that can happen here. Joann first came here when she was three years old. A horrible birth defect was preventing her from having any chance at a normal life. Now after several years and many surgeries she's one of the clinics greatest successes.

>> >> Father Ed:
Probably in the neighborhood of around 400 surgeries to help people walk. So you've seen some of those around here today. You've seen some miracles around here, and you're in the process of seeing more happening today. And they just go on and on and on.

>> >> Pam White:
Father Ed is head of St. Andrew's crippled children's clinic, also known as the clinic of love.

>> >> Father Ed:
When the clinic became bigger than the church, and I made a decision, with the consent of the Board of Directors of the clinic, to go full time with the clinic and gave up the church, now there's another wonderful, wonderful priest here in charge of the church and I just take care of the clinic.

>> >> Pam White:
Standing in line from Nogales, Sonora, Maria Guadalupe Valenzuela is on a mission, a single mom with no money, recently her 17-year-old son Armando lost a leg in a car accident. And with it, dreams for a future.

>> >> Pam White:
In a wing of the church, another child struggling for survival and helping her nutritionist Jill Feldhausen.

>> >> Jill Feldhausen:
All the cases I see are children that can't grow, that can't gain weight, and most significantly because of all of that, their immune systems are terribly depressed. So they have no muscles to chew, to swallow, and they constantly get sick. A sore throat, a strep infection may wipe them out and then they're further down the line.

>> >> Pam White:
You won't find kids here with a cold or flu. Most of them are severely disabled. This is their only option if their families can't afford medical specialists.

>> >> Father Ed:

They may end up going to a Schreiner's hospital. We may end up operating on them here. They may be getting medicines from us. They may get a wheelchair, hearing aids, all kinds of things that go on.

>> >> Pam White:
Francisco Valencia began volunteering here when he was 15 as an interpreter. He was so inspired by the experience, he decided to become a doctor.

>> >> Francisco Valencia:
It was just something that obviously hit me, touched me deep inside, and it just kept me coming back. You're able to take some children who have some orthopedic condition, and in a sense, they're a liability for their community. They can't go to school. They can't run. They can't play. And because of that, it interferes with their life. And if you're able to do something to help improve on that, whether it's from a surgical standpoint or you brace them, and it's very rewarding to see the smiles on the children's faces, and also on the parents' faces. A lot of times we aren't able to cure the conditions, but at least we're able to improve the situation for the child and for the parents who have to take care of them on a daily basis.

>> >> Pam White:
It's the first trip to the clinic for U of A medical student Tracy Oberg and an unforgettable lesson.

>> >> Tracy Oberg:
Not only a service to the patients but a service to medical students to learn how to deal with a lot of these rare diseases, to just gain better rapport with their patients. It just helps us -- we learn from them just as much as they learn from us. So it's a great thing.

>> >> Pam White:
The clinic began almost three decades ago when a Tucson doctor started visiting a group of disabled children in Nogales, Sonora. He brought more medical professionals with him to see more children. It grew quickly, and they moved from meeting in homes to the local orphanage.

>> >> Coco Ramiro:
At that time, people would hide those kind of kids. They would be ashamed of them or something. I was not. By that time I had already two more. So wherever we went, we would take him.

>> >> Pam White:
She was one of the first parents to go to the clinic. Now she helps run it.

>> >> Coco Ramiro:
Kids that walk that didn't walk. They were crawling. And we have seen so many things.

>> >> Pam White:
In 1976, the clinic moved to the U.S. because of licensing concerns about American doctors practicing in Mexico. St. Andrew's Episcopal church opened its doors. Since then, more than 10,000 children have received medical care.

>> >> Father Ed:
Once they were on this side of the line, then it began to grow. Pediatrics came along. Neurology. And then they started bringing in other therapies, physical therapists, occupational therapist, nutritionist, speech therapist, audiologists.

>> >> Pam White:
But the clinic could never exist without teamwork.

>> >> Francisco Valencia:
People from all walks of life who have come together for this one purpose, and it always amazes me that group of people can make something happen.

>> >> Pam White:
Finally, Armando gets to see the doctor. During his visit, the good news they've been praying for. The Shriner's hospital in Sacramento will fit Armando with a prosthesis and he will spend six weeks there learning how to use it. Medical costs as well as airfare and lodging for Armando and his mother will all be taken care of.

>> >> Pam White:
And so many are touched by these children's plight, they can't help but making coming here a ritual.

>> >> Newsmaker:
Once you come once, it can't stop.

>> >> Newsmaker:
Everything that goes on here, you just get an echo.

>> >> José Cárdenas:
Thank you for watching "Horizonte" tonight. Please join us next week as we take a look at current local issues through an Hispanic lens.

Ray Suarez: Senior correspondent, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer;

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