Jorge Ramos anchors the top-ranked newscast on Spanish-language TV, Noticiero Univision, alongside Maria Elena Salinas. Sometimes called "the Spanish-language Walter Cronkite," Ramos has been a vocal — and influential — proponent of an immigration overhaul. (In recent summers, Ramos' network Univision has topped the prime-time TV ratings for all networks in the U.S. — English- and Spanish-language — among viewers 18 to 49, as Mandalit del Barco reported Tuesday.)
Tell Me More guest host Celeste Headlee spoke with Ramos on Wednesday's show.
"If Latinos perceive that Republicans are to blame for the absence of immigration reform," says Ramos, "I think Republicans are going to pay the price for that. So the challenge right now is for Republicans — and obviously speaker John Boehner.
"I don't think John Boehner wants to ... become the new Sheriff Joe Arpaio — among Latinos one of the most hated political figures. And I don't think John Boehner wants to join the ranks of Joe Arpaio or [former California Gov.] Pete Wilson or [Arizona] Gov. Jan Brewer.
"So I think Latinos know that John Boehner in this case is the man. That he can make it or break it when it comes to immigration reform. And Latinos won't forget it in the next election."
Headlee: Although Latino voters (unless they're in John Boehner's district) can't punish him personally or politically, how will they exert [political] pressure?
Ramos: "Well, I think Latinos will simply punish the party that could be blamed for the absence of immigration reform. It's that simple.
"I mean the trend is so clear: from Bush who had 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, and then McCain down to 31, and Romney to 27. So, if this trend continues, it will be close to impossible for Republicans to win the White House back.
"And then we put it in context again, realizing we are 55 million Latinos right now. We will be 150 in a little more than 35 years. Republicans better understand that this is a different country, that we are in the middle of a truly, truly demographic revolution. Latinos are changing the way we speak, the way we dance, the way we do politics in this country, the way we vote. So unless you understand that this is a completely different country, that this is not a white and black country, that this is a much more complicated country where minorities will become the majority.
"I mean, you just have to go to California and realize that if you go to any hospital you'll realize that a majority of the names of the newborns are Jose, Matias, Jorge, Eduardo. Like it or not, Latinos are changing the way we see ourselves in this country."
The Republican Party likes to say the Latinos are natural conservative voters because on social issues they agree in many ways with the GOP. So if immigration is taken off the table, do you think that those large number of Latinos that you're talking about will now gravitate toward the conservative party?
"That's a possibility. But again, if Republicans don't do that, we'll never know and they'll never know. They simply, I think, have no option but to approve immigration reform. ...
"The support for immigration reform within the Hispanic community is almost universal. Most polls suggest a level of support between 80 and 90 percent. And for me it's very simple to explain that.
"Immigration for us is personal. It's something personal. Half of adult Latinos are immigrants in this country. So when we are talking about immigration reform, we are talking about our neighbors. We are talking about my co-workers. We are talking about the people I talk to every single morning in the store."
In order to exert real political pressure, though, it might be necessary to get more Latinos to the polls. Less than half of eligible voters among Latinos and Hispanics went to the polls this past presidential election.
"There is no excuse. Only 12 million Latinos went to the polls in the last presidential election. The estimates suggest that 60 million Latinos will go to the polls in the next election. However, in a very close election — and that is what we have been having since the year 2000 — in a very close election, Latino voters in states like Florida, Colorado, New Mexico again might decide the election. ...
"People thought of the Latino community as the sleeping giant. Well, the giant woke up many, many years ago. And the Hispanic community has decided the election in many states. And we are here to stay.
"As a matter of fact, I love it when I have the opportunity to go to Hispanic communities, when I have to present my books or lectures, or simply covering different news, because I get to meet Hispanic families who bring me their kids and they say, 'Look, this is Maria.' Or, 'This is Juan. And Maria will become the first presidenta.' Or, 'Juan will become the first Hispanic president.' And it is simply a matter of numbers.
"If the African-American community is smaller than the Hispanic community, I think the next frontier for Latinos is to have the first Hispanic president. And there are, of course, many names right now on the table for that."