Immigration Bill May Get Supporters After Elections
MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:
One person listening closely to the president was Jorge Ramos. Ramos is one of the country's most prominent Latino journalists. He anchors the nightly news on the Spanish language television network Univision.
Ramos has been on a mission to persuade Mr. Obama to move forward on an immigration bill. He raises the issue night after night on his program, and now he's written a book, "A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto."
I asked him what he thought of the president's speech.
Mr. JORGE RAMOS (Univision): The speech was great. But even a great speech at this moment is not enough. We wanted action. Some kind of action.
It is true - the president is ready to move. But first of all, Im not sure if the Democratic Party has the votes needed to pass reform in the Senate. And it is true that at this moment the Republicans are not helping at all.
Where is Senator John McCain or Senator Lindsay Graham? Where are the 11 senators that voted immigration reform in the year 2007? Right now there's not a single Republican supporting immigration reform. And it seems - I don't know exactly - but it seems that they already made a political calculation that they're not going to give up on this issue until after the elections in November.
KELLY: In November. Well, and it's just not seen as a vote winner. As you say, how do you get around that?
Mr. RAMOS: Well, I think President Barack Obama can do many things. He can insist that he doesn't like what's going on in Arizona. He could have stopped deportations on students and he could have stopped deportations on the parents of American citizens right now. He could have done many things right now. I think he's just waiting for the right political moment to move on this.
Unfortunately, we can't keep on waiting. I just came back from South Africa a few days ago, covering the World Cup, and it is amazing what they have done against discrimination and apartheid in only 16 years. And it's very difficult to imagine how come they have improved in progress so much in South Africa and right here in places like Arizona we're going exactly the opposite way.
KELLY: Jorge Ramos, how big an issue is immigration right now for Latinos? And I ask because in your book you cite a poll from 2008 that found that only six percent of Latinos considered immigration the most important issue.
Mr. RAMOS: Well, you're absolutely right. Polls after poll shows that the three most important issues for Latinos are education, economy and jobs. However, it's the most important symbolic issue for Latinos. The Gallup poll recently showed that the Latino support for President Barack Obama is going down from 69 percent in January to 57 percent right now. So that means that Latinos are disillusioned with the White House.
KELLY: One point that's often made, and you make in your book, is that many, if not most, of the undocumented workers here in the States are taking jobs that Americans don't want - factory workers, cleaners, fruit pickers. How do you get a bill in place that avoids entrenching an underclass, really, legalizing an underclass?
Mr. RAMOS: I understand that right now there are 15 million Americans without a job. But I haven't seen thousands or millions of Americans looking for jobs picking up tomatoes or oranges. So the reality is that immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, contribute much more to this country than what they take away from this country.
KELLY: And your point would be that by legalizing them you give them the chance to move out of the lower-paying jobs?
Mr. RAMOS: Exactly. Not only that, a UCLA study concluded recently that if you legalize undocumented immigrants in this country, they would contribute $1.5 trillion to the economy and would create almost a million jobs. So it's a great business to have immigrants. I just can't understand why politically nothing is being done in Washington right now.
KELLY: You were born in Mexico City yourself, and I know you came to the U.S. more than 25 years ago - is that right?
Mr. RAMOS: That's right, yeah.
KELLY: Why has this remained such an important issue for you?
Mr. RAMOS: I am an immigrant and I'm a journalist, so I have the privilege of being an immigrant with a voice. I mean, I'm on TV every single day. Millions of people watch me and listen to me. But at the same time, I can't forget that I am an immigrant and that there are other immigrants without a voice. There are millions of immigrants who are invisible to most Americans.
So I think my mission is to give voice to those who don't have a voice.
KELLY: Thanks very much.
Mr. RAMOS: Thank you.
KELLY: That's Jorge Ramos, news anchor on the Univision television network, and the author of a new book, "A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto."
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.