On March 8, 2017, Tucker Carlson of Fox News interviewed Senior News Anchor for Univision Jorge Ramos on the topic of immigration. It was not a pleasant sight to see. Ramos’ bogus claim to be a subject-matter expert on matters dealing with Hispanics came back to haunt him, while Tucker’s attempt to give the impression that he had all the answers pertaining to race and ethnicity did not help him at all. Rather than being better informed at the end of the interview, the TV viewers were left more confused and angry.
My purpose for picking up my pen and writing this op-ed is to clarify the matters that this interview should have elucidated.
Tucker started the interview by referencing comments that Ramos made back in February of 2017: “I am a proud Latino immigrant in the United States.” “There are many people who do not want us to be here, and they want to create a wall in order to separate us. But you know what, this is also our country. Let me repeat this, our country, not theirs. It’s our country.”
Ramos was obviously disingenuous by claiming that he was still a Latino immigrant, as he became a U.S. citizen in 2008. The wall that Ramos invoked was the one that President Trump wants to build along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep “illegal” immigrants from entering our country. The President has never indicated a willingness to interfere with legal immigrants who can be fully vetted before they are allowed to resettle in the United States. By failing to distinguish between legal v. illegal immigrants, Ramos lost the same credibility that some national Hispanic organizations and liberal media outlets have lost when arguing this issue.
Ramos continued the attack by saying “… the interesting thing is that with the Trump administration and many people who support Donald Trump, they think it is their country, that it is a white country, and they are absolutely wrong. This is not a white country, it is not their country.” As of July of 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau showed that whites made up 77.1% of the U.S. population. It is misguided, as Ramos claimed, to think that the United States is not a white country. It still is.
Ramos would not give up. He cited a U.S. Census Bureau projection that showed that the white population will become less than 50% of the U.S. population and become a majority-minority nation in 2044. While the Hispanic population is projected to increase from 55 million in 2014 to 119 million in 2060 (an increase of 115%), the white population will still remain the largest single population group and its needs cannot be ignored – as Ramos implied. Moreover, as with all projections, there are a lot of variables that could drastically change the 2044 prediction – like a change in the 1965 immigration policy favoring family reunification to one that favors sought-after skill sets.
By mixing up the term Hispanic with race, Ramos opened himself up to a frontal attack by Tucker who pointed out that Ramos was whiter than he was and had blue eyes [while Tucker had brown eyes].
Tucker continued by pointing out that “Latino” seems to include Afro-Cubans, German Guatemalans, people who speak Portuguese, and non-Spanish-speaking Peruvians. The best that Ramos could do to defend himself was to define the term Hispanic/Latino as one pertaining to people who come from a region in the world (Latin America) who speak more Spanish at home than others, and who listen to Spanish-language TV networks. This, of course, was Ramos’ own definition – not the one accepted by federal agencies or by the majority of Hispanics living in the U.S.
Ramos ignores the fact that the longer that Hispanics live in this country, the less Spanish that is spoken at home and the less Spanish-speaking TV programs that they watch. Hispanics quickly learn that the best and quickest way to move up the opportunity ladder is to obtain fluency in the English language. And they realize that listening to Spanish-speaking TV programs hinders, rather than helps them to achieve that American dream. Perhaps, as a senior news anchor of a Spanish-speaking TV network like Univision, Ramos hopes that there will be more Spanish-speaking Hispanics in the U.S. population than non-Spanish-speaking ones. After all, this represent a matter of job security to him.
Both Ramos and Tucker were out of their league when discussing the term Hispanic/Latino. The ethnic and racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of ethnicity and race, and not an attempt to define these categories biologically, anthropologically, or genetically.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the 2010 census, Hispanic origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. According to this definition which is derived from the one developed by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Hispanic/Latino refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.
This is the way that Ramos should have answered Tucker’s questions regarding the definition of the term Hispanic/Latino. Afro-Cubans would be considered to be Hispanics/Latinos who could check any of the six racial categories listed on the 2010 census form (white; black or African American; American Indian or Alaska native; Asian; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; or, Some Other Race). Going on to German-Guatemalans, if the persons were born in Guatemala, they would be considered Hispanics. People who speak Portuguese would not be considered to be Hispanic/Latino, as you do not speak Portuguese in countries who trace their history and heritage to the Spanish culture. White and blue-eyed individuals are not traits that are pertinent to whether one is Hispanic/Latino.
And, finally, non-Spanish-speaking Peruvians would be considered to be Hispanics/Latinos who most likely would indicate their racial preference to be American Indian/Alaska Native or Some Other Race. As defined by OMB, the term American Indian/Alaska Native “refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.”
Having made the previous analysis, let me say that the U.S. Census Bureau collects ethnic and race data that is based on self-identification. It has been conducting decennial censuses since 1790 as required by Article 1, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. Besides apportioning state representation, the 2010 census data is used to make decisions regarding legislation and spending on housing, highways, hospitals, schools, assistance programs, and multiple projects and programs that are key to the health and welfare of the U.S. population and economy. Therefore, any group misreporting information to the U.S. Census Bureau ends up harming the well-being of its own group, and it is for this very reason that there is such high compliance.
Ramos moved on with a different argument by claiming that 97% of “undocumented” immigrants were good people. No one is denying that to be a fact. But as Tucker indicated, their mere presence in the U.S. illegally is a crime and ours is a nation of laws.
Then, Tucker invoked a set of statistics that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) – an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice – compiled as of January 28, 2017, and that showed that 14.2% of all federal inmates in the U.S. were Mexican citizens. [This figure has been updated in 2021, to 9.3%]. Ramos, in an unbelievable fashion, rebutted the BOP statistics by arguing that since 3% of illegal immigrants – compared to 6% of American citizens – committed felonies, the more immigrants that you allowed, the less crime that you would have. Ramos ignored the fact that the BOP statistics are generated by career federal employees who cannot have any political bias. By failing to address the BOP statistics, Ramos not only lost this argument, but he lost any credibility that he had left.
Tucker ended the interview by moving beyond arguments that were based on race to one that was centered on just simple fairness to American citizens. He indicated that it didn’t help an American citizen making $40,000 annually to have a bunch of illegal immigrants willing to work for $20,000 annually. At the end of the day, it was the American citizen who was left without a job.
It’s not surprising that civil rights champion Barbara Jordan, a Democrat from Texas and the first Southern African American woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, made the argument that “illegal immigrants” hurt the employment chances of unemployed or under-employed African Americans.
When it comes to doing an interview that will serve to illuminate a contentious issue for TV viewers, it helps to have the facts on your side. Ramos and Tucker did not do a thorough job in researching the facts, and, as a results, the TV viewers were left begging for answers to their questions. Jorge Ramos has not stopped making outrageous pronouncements on illegal immigration to the U.S. In 2021, he stated that Americans cannot stop migration and must instead open their homeland’s borders to a huge and endless inflow of migrants. It is illogical and ungrateful individuals like Ramos that Americans must protect themselves against. See: 2021.