Senator Marco Rubio Takes on Jorge Ramos, and Wins

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on June 25, 2012

Jorge Ramos, the popular Univision news anchor, makes no pretense of objectivity about illegal immigration. He fills his newscasts with human interest stories about the plight of illegal immigrants, scorning the fundamental journalistic responsibility to report the experiences of those who resent the influx and feel overwhelmed by it. He has declared that those who oppose it are xenophobes.

The title of one of Ramos's books — A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto — confirms his distaste for nuance. Ramos insists that the United States must embrace everyone who makes it across the border. He excoriates Arizona's efforts to stem the tide. He has no interest in measuring the social stress and fiscal cost imposed on the state by an illegal population that swelled from about 88,000 in 1990 to 560,000 in 2008.

Ramos's unconstrained advocacy has made him a hero among illegal immigrants. It has also made him one of the most polarizing figures in the discussion of national immigration policy. Because he sees the issue in manichean terms and supports the belief that migrants have a right to come to the United States, he is one of the most dangerous obstacles to compromise in the search for immigration reform.

On Sunday's "Al Punto" program, Ramos sought to torment Florida's Republican Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio. He succeeded only in demonstrating his own extremism. Rubio calmly rebutted the constantly interrupting anchorman, who at times appeared ready to jump out of his seat in frustration.

The articulate senator from Florida showed he may have what it takes to become a bridge-builder over the troubled waters of immigration policy. He was measured. He made Ramos look petulant.

Time after time, Ramos complained it is unjust, selfish, even hypocritical, that Rubio, whose parents came to the United States from Cuba in 1956 in search of economic opportunity, does not defend the right of millions of others to do the same. "Many think it is not fair that you defend your parents, who were immigrants for economic reasons and that you don't do the same for others", said Ramos.

Time after time, Rubio explained that his parents had come legally. He stated his support for an ample program of legal immigration. As for illegal immigration, he issued a declaration that undercuts the reckless Ramos recipe for open borders. Said Rubio, "This cannot be the only country in the world which does not have a system of immigration laws that are not enforced."

Rubio made these points: We are not going to deport the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. We are not going to offer them all amnesty. A solution can be found only if it wins the support of the American people.

Rubio called for greater border security, more guestworkers, and an unspecified modernization of the system of legal immigration. "I believe if we do all that, then we arrive at a moment when something can be done about those people who are here undocumented", he said.

As someone who lived in Arizona for much of my adult life, including the entire decade of the 1990s, I was especially interested in Rubio's response to Ramos's attack on Arizona's S.B. 1070. Ramos, of course, denounced the law as "anti-immigrant", expressing disbelief that Rubio would "support a law that in practice persecutes and discriminates against Hispanics". Pouring on the indignation, Ramos said, "You took the side of the victimizers who are persecuting Hispanics!"

Rubio responded by noting that the distress in Arizona about the unsettling effects of mass illegal immigration includes many Hispanics "who looked for their state to react".

As a long-time Arizonan, I know that to be true. Many of my neighbors, some of whose family had lived in the state for generations, were angry at the chaotic influx of illegals. That is a reality that Ramos chooses not to acknowledge because it contradicts the only story he is willing to tell.

The story of immigration is endlessly complex and interesting. Ramos's coverage is dangerously simplistic and one-sided. It will take more measured voices, more responsible opinion leaders to design a compromise.

Maybe the Cuban-American senator from Florida will help repair the damage inflicted by the Mexican-American anchorman from Univision.