Jorge Ramos

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He is America’s top-ranked national news anchor on Spanish language television. Mexican-born Univision anchor Jorge Ramos has also turned his talents to writing. He’ll be on HORIZONTE to talk about his latest book, “The Hispanic Wave.” In it, Ramos tells how Hispanics’ growing voting power will be felt in the next presidential election and beyond.

>> José Cárdenas:
Good evening, I'm José Cárdenas. Welcome to "Horizonte." Tonight, a conversation with Jorge Ramos, television news anchor and author of "The Latino Wave", and presidential candidate John Kerry is scheduled to make an appearance at the National Council of La Raza's annual conference in Phoenix.

José Cárdenas:
Jorge Ramos has been an anchor for Univision for 16 years. He's won seven Emmy awards for excellence in journalism. He writes a weekly column for newspapers in the United States and Latin America. He's interviewed presidents and foreign leaders and authored various books, including his latest, "The Latino Wave: How Hispanics will Elect the Next American President." Jorge, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte".

>> Jorge Ramos:
Thank you.

>> José Cárdenas:
I would like to talk about your experience as an author and as an immigrant and talk about your new book and some of the issues raised there. You have written six books, and in one of them, you mention that you had the luck to be born in interesting times and that you have used journalism as your window to the world. Tell us about some of your more interesting assignments.

>> Jorge Ramos:
I became a journalist almost by accident. I was in Mexico when then President Ronald Reagan was shot. I was the only one who spoke a little English and who had a visa to travel to the United States. That's when I realized, when I finally went all the way to Washington -- back then I was a terrible reporter. But I realized that --

>> José Cárdenas:
You were a young reporter.

>> Jorge Ramos:
I was really young - I was 20-something. I realized that journalism was going to be for me a window to the world. Then I realized that I wanted to talk to the people who changed history and I wanted to be a witness to history. And 20-something years later, I have been to more than 50 countries, I have interviewed more than 60 presidents and I have been to five wars.

>> José Cárdenas:
Which were the most exciting or interesting interviews you have done?

>> Jorge Ramos:
The more authoritarian, the more character, the better.

>> José Cárdenas:
You mentioned Fidel Castro.

>> Jorge Ramos:
Castro is definitely one of the more interesting ones even though it lasted one minute and some seconds before the body guards pulled me and threw me to the floor, that's what ended it.

>> José Cárdenas:
Is that what you meant by more authoritarian, the better?

>> Jorge Ramos:
Well, it's definitely intense. With Chavez, it was very intense. With Carlos Salinas de Gortari
- when I asked him if he had killed Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon in Mexico.

José Cárdenas:
Mexico's ex- president.

Jorge Ramos:
Also Ernesto Zedillo, the former president of Mexico -- Probably because since I'm from Mexico and I still remember being censored in Mexico. I was born with the PRI in power, I thought I was going to die with the PRI in power. And also with Marcos and Chapa.

José Cárdenas:
In your books, the experiences, one of the things you mention is the best thing is it has given immigrants opportunities not in their countries and the worst this is racism. Can you elaborate?

>> Jorge Ramos:
I am still an immigrant, and when I go back to my country of origin because I don't feel that I belong completely to Mexico anymore. When I come back, I realize I'm not completely accepted in this country. When I go on TV or on radio and write about immigrants and defend the point of view of undocumented, sometimes I feel I don't have a house, I don't have a home. So that's what we have as Latinos.

José Cárdenas:
Do you think all Latinos feel that way?

>> Jorge Ramos:
Not all. About 60% were born here in the United States, my son and daughter were born in the United States and they feel completely American. What happens with immigrants like me is that we have this double identity, double consciousness is what it's been called. Double identity, if you ask me to identify myself, I would say I'm Mexican and secondly I might say Latino and thirdly, I might say that I'm American. It is not easy to be an immigrant in the United States, especially after 9/11.

José Cárdenas:
You've been described because you talk about the experiences of immigrants and others as the voice of the powerless. You have attributed your inspiration as an author, as
a journalist to some from Mexico. Is there a connection between those two things?

>> Jorge Ramos:
I am an immigrant and have a privileged position as a writer, anchorman to give a voice to those who do not have a voice. That is what has been shown in my books and television and columns. I have two role models. One is an Italian journalist, the fantastic book which she confronted the post powerful men in the world. And a Mexican writer showed me you have to confront. She described what happened in October the 2nd, 1968 when the Mexican Army killed more than 400 students. I learned the responsibility for journalists is to confront those in power and prevent the abuse of those who are in power. I think that's what I do in my writings and what I do when I'm on the other side, when I'm on your side.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk about that, you are one of the anchros of one of the most watched news shows in the country. It out draws all of the major networks news shows and you have been described as one of the most powerful Hispanics in the country.

>> Jorge Ramos:
I'm not sure, I wish I could change the life of one immigrant by giving him a green card. I can voice their concerns. Before the interviews, we always have some time to
talk with powerful people and I have had the opportunity to talk to George Bush, Sr., Bill Clinton, with George W. Bush, with John Kerry, and before and after the interviews we get to talk about pretty important things for Latinos, especially now, amnesty, 300,000 Latinos have lost their jobs, 6 out of 10 Latinos do not have health insurance. I'm a bridge between those who sometimes don't have a voice and those who have a lot of power.

José Cárdenas:
Those are all subjects that you discuss in your newest book. I would like to begin the discussion of that with actually the last two sentences in the book where you say, Any way you look at, it the future of the United States is a Hispanic one. The Latino wave is unstoppable. Explain what you mean by that.

>> Jorge Ramos:
There is an incredible demographic revolution going on in this country that is going to affect everything from music to food to the way we communicate. I call it the Latino wave. There are 40 million Latinos in this country, in 50 years, 100 million Latinos, and 120 years from now, you nor I will be here, in the year 2125, there will be more Hispanics than non-Hispanic whites in this country. What does that mean? The United States, will it be a bilingual country? We are completely not represented completely. Eventually this country will have a Latino majority and the demographic revolution will have a greater impact on everything in the country.

>> José Cárdenas:
Does that support the claims by somebody like Samuel Huntington that Hispanics are not assimilating into the country?

>> Jorge Ramos:
I think what the professor did, simply does not stand with the facts. Huntington doesn't get it. It is a true there is a process of Latinization. Millions of Latinos are becoming U.S. citizens. I personally met dozens of them fighting in Iraq, willing to give their lives for this country. So not only second generation Latinos feel more comfortable in English than Spanish. We're are some examples of the way in which Latinos are also going through a process of Americanization. Contrary to what Huntington is saying, we are not a threat. I was told that the challenge for the United States is to recognize itself as a multicultural, multi ethnic society. I wonder if Huntington gets it.

José Cárdenas:
You have said a number of things in this regard. One, that we are not a melting pot. You have that, and this has to do with the English only movement, that what unites us is not English but our diversity. What do you mean?

>> Jorge Ramos:
The unifying force is not English. By saying that, I could say let's teach people in South America English and they become a super power? It doesn't work that way. The diversity, acceptance of immigrants, the drive for innovation and especially concept of the American creed, liberty, equality, social justice. That is what makes America great. Right now, more people speak Spanish in the United States than in Columbia, Argentina or Spain. Only Mexico there are more people who speak Spanish than in the United States. This is also the only country that I know that people believe to speak one language is better than speaking two. I cannot understand that. I would venture a fantastic change in our educational system, by the children reach 12th grade, they should be able to read two languages. Countries, what many people are saying, the majority of the Latinos were born in the United States and almost 90% of Latinos are bilingual, even those of us with an accent like mine. We are part of the United States, we want to be accepted and respected.

José Cárdenas:
A principal focus of your book is the upcoming election. You talk about the Columbus syndrome, what do you mean?

>> Jorge Ramos:
Every four years we are being rediscovered. Latinos don't exist for the rest of the population unless there is an election year. For the candidates and politicians they don't pay attention to us unless it's an election year. We have in the year 2000, Al Gore and George Bush trying to speak Spanish and lure the Hispanic vote. At the end, I have an interview with President George W. Bush, he told me that the Latino vote decided the 2000 election, there was a difference of 577 votes and most likely they were Cuban-American votes. We have exactly the same thing going on this year, they need the Hispanic vote to win, for the first time in history no candidate will be able to get to the white house without a significant portion of the Hispanic vote.

José Cárdenas:
You say in your book at least at this point neither of them deserve it. What do you mean by that?

>> Jorge Ramos:
Because Bill Clinton used to say that he wanted to be the last U.S. president who didn't speak Spanish. He was right. George W. Bush is the first U.S. president to speak Spanish or should I say
thinks he can speak Spanish. To be neutral, both John Kerry and George Bush are the masters of the seven words of Spanish. This year they have to go beyond and truly address the specific concerns of the Hispanic community. They have to go from Spanish, to specifics. They have to address issues like education, health care, jobs, immigration.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk about immigration and you talk about the Latino versus the non-latino views on this subject. What can you tell us about that?

>>Jorge Ramos:
The debate of immigration is non-documented immigrants. There are 9 million of them now, maybe more. They tell them to go back to the country of origin but at the same time, millions of Americans are taking advantage of the work of undocumented immigrants. They are needed to pay for the Social Security of the rapidly aging population. Latino immigrants are basically taking the jobs that others don't want to take. About 23% of work force in farming and fishing, 18% of the service industry. Without Latinos -- I don't know if you saw a movie, A Day Without Mexicans.

José Cárdenas:
It will air later this month in Phoenix.

>> Jorge Ramos:
I shows what would happen in this country without Latinos.

José Cárdenas:
Let me ask you one more question. You have your own interesting immigration proposal at least as it relates to education.

>> Jorge Ramos:
One of the tragedies we have in this country, even though many, many students are undocumented they can go on to elementary school and high school without having to show that they are legal in this country. When they go to college or when they want to go to university, they cannot go on because they don't have $20,000 to pay for $30,000 to pay. Eight states have changed their local laws, to provide the possibility for these students to pay in-state tuition. Very simple, if we want to increase the levels of education in the Hispanic community of which we have to, it would be fantastic that the families of all these students who are finally becoming college students could at the end of four years of university, become legal residents. Believe me, we would have thousands of undocumented immigrants to have masters and Ph.D.s just to have their family become residents.

José Cárdenas:
You would propose if somebody graduates from high school they would get state residency which would allow them to go to college.

>> Jorge Ramos:
Absolutely.

José Cárdenas:
You were in Arizona today for, in connection with your book and appeared on a radio talk show. What was your experience?

>> Jorge Ramos:
It was not a pleasant experience. It was an interview conducted in English. I was talking about the things we are discussing right now and I was shocked by the level of prejudice and intolerance from many of the callers. Even -- I cannot understand the hatred toward Latinos, especially undocumented immigrants to this country. When I was telling them the facts, the most comprehensive study concluded all immigrants both legal and undocumented contribute $10 billion every year, in other words, they take less than what they contribute to this country and people do not understand.

José Cárdenas:
One of the issues in Arizona, for example, is the amount of money being spent on health care for undocumented.

>> Jorge Ramos:
Immigrants pay taxes, even undocumented pay taxes all the time. The problem is not Arizona, the problem is that most of those taxes are being paid to the federal government. It should be between the State of Arizona and the federal government, they should get more money from the federal government because of all these immigrants. When they use the term "illegal immigrants", they are hard working, family oriented religious people. They were not involved with 9/11, they were not part of the 19 hijackers that killed people in 2001.

José Cárdenas:
Yet what you heard this morning --

>> Jorge Ramos:
Was shocking. I've been all over the country promoting my become and have I not seen in any other state the kind of venom and prejudice that I heard here in Arizona. I'm sorry to say that. I was shocked.

José Cárdenas:
We're about out of time. Any final observations on Arizona or the upcoming election?

>> Jorge Ramos:
8 million Hispanic voters will decide this election. The country is split politically between John Kerry and George Bush. The country is polarized by the war. Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona, at the end that's what's so fantastic about this country, a minority will decide the election. 8 million Hispanic voters will have the final word. And the importance of a Hispanic vote is determined and defined by its ability to determine an outcome of this election despite the fact that Latinos are not the majority. They share the dream, sometimes they dream in Spanish.

José Cárdenas:
Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte".

>>Jorge Ramos:
Pleasure.

José Cárdenas:
This weekend, the National Council of La Raza will gather at the Phoenix Civic Plaza. This is something of a coming home convention for the organization as it was founded here 36 years ago. Raul Yzaguirre joined the organization in 1974 and helped it become one of the most influential Hispanic organizations in the country. He is currently its president and chief executive officer. Raul, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte".

>> Raul Yzaguirre:
A pleasure.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk a little bit about NCLR and the conference.

>> Raul Yzaguirre:
National Council of la Raza is an umbrella organization for many organizations, groups that -

José Cárdenas:
Based in Phoenix.

>> Raul Yzaguirre:
affiliated with us. Then they serve about 4 and a half million each year, providing health care, educational services, through charter schools or variety of educational apparatus, mechanisms. Housing. And employment and training programs. That's basically our work. We're better known for what we do on public policy. We try to understand what's happening in our community, the demographics, income levels, characteristics of our community, then we try to do something about it. For example, we wanted to understand the difference
between our poverty and the poverty of other Americans. We found it was very unusual. Latinos are not out of work on welfare type poor people, they are -- in fact, they are working two or three jobs but their income is so low it is still under the poverty level, they have large families, trying to maintain. It's the working poor. We were able to formulate an agenda, a series of items, earned income tax credit, using the tax system to reward work and make it more attractive and rewarding for our community. That's an example.

José Cárdenas:
Speaking of agendas, you have a pretty packed one for this conference. What can we expect by way of major figures?

>> Raul Yzaguirre:
What's more important in my mind are the 60-odd some workshops that are open to the public and are free. Dealing with Social Security, debate between two congressmen and two experts, one for and one against. We are going to be dealing with housing policy, civil rights, a whole range of issues that are important to our community. We would love to have everybody come. The expo which is 300-some odd exhibits, there will be entertainment, a lot of fun things to be involved in, starting this Saturday. We are going to have John Kerry, the candidate for the president of the United States on Tuesday. John McCain on Saturday. We will have a homeboy, Ricardo Carmona, the surgeon general will be with us. Vicky Carr. It's going to be a lot of fun.

>> José Cárdenas:
Appearances by Republican and Democrat officials what do you hope participants will take away from the conference?

>>Raul Yzaguirre:
Our hope is not only that they take a lot of knowledge and understanding of what's happening in our community, a better sense of the issue, depth of the understanding so they can make better judgments about who to support, what policies to get behind, but we hope to get the political leaders to understand who we are. It is a dialogue. For example, with John Kerry, he is not only going to make a speech, he is going to take questions from the floor.

José Cárdenas:
Do you agree that Latinos will be the swing vote this election?

>> Raul Yzaguirre:
No question about it. A poll done by an organization that we commissioned shows that Latinos are very concerned about the presidential election, they're going to be involved and that the candidates are not addressing our issues and there are states that we know we are about 25% of the elector ate in those states.

José Cárdenas:
This is at Phoenix civic plaza?

>> Raul Yzaguirre:
Correct.

José Cárdenas:
Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte". And thank you for watching and joining us on this show. See you next week on "Horizonte". I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good night.

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