Sunday, August 30, 2015

Setting Latinos Up for Failure

The Jorge Ramos Martyr for the Freedom of the Press Tour is well underway making stops at every news outlet. The self styled champion of the Latino community has been claiming that Donald Trump expelled him from a press conference because he was afraid of tough questions. A claim that is easily discredited by the fact that Trump allowed Ramos back and allotted him more time than any other reporter in the room. But then again, Ramos also claims to be a journalist when he is really more an advocate when it comes to the issue of illegal immigration.

If Mr. Ramos' intention was to slay the Trump dragon on behalf of Latinos, he is no Saint Jorge (sorry, I couldn't resist). His refusal to wait his turn and interrupting a fellow reporter did nothing to advance his cause; but it did reinforce the negative stereotype of Latinos cutting in line and demanding special treatment. Ann Coulter couldn't be happier and gleefully twitted:
"At least Jorge Ramos is consistent. Whether a press conf or a nation, he thinks Mexicans can barge in & demand rights that aren't theirs."
Saddling Latinos with negative stereotypes is part of the lateral damage Ramos has caused in his quest to position himself as the official spokesman for the entire Latino community. Every time the subject of illegal immigration comes up, Ramos is quick to declare any policy proposal he doesn't approve of as anti-Latino. He labels any politician he disagrees with also as anti-Latino. Ramos' approach hasn't done much to advance immigration reform but is has done wonders as far as creating the impression that only Latinos violate immigration laws.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Saint Jorge, immigration reform is more unlikely than ever. His approach of labeling racist anyone who disagrees with him; implying that all non-Latinos are lazy because they won't do certain jobs (sorry Jorge, there is difference between lazy and not willing to be exploited); and, his attitude that illegal immigrants have a right to demand citizenship, has created a backlash that is fueling candidates like Trump to the top of the polls.

Don't worry. Saint Jorge is not done yet! He is now ensuring that mass deportations, limiting birthright citizenship and the wall are even more likely to happen. Ramos defiant declarations of "You can't deport! You can't change the 14th Amendment! You can't build a wall!" are fast becoming a dare as the silent majority mutters under its breath "Wanna bet?!"

After failing to win universal approval for his antics, Ramos has now resorted to berating his colleagues for not standing up against hateful rhetoric (How long before they too will be deemed anti-Latino?) He has even denounced the Mexican government for not looking out for Mexicans in the United States (I guess he hasn't noticed that the Mexican government doesn't do that in Mexico and that's the main reason so many risk their lives crossing the desert).   And, of course, Ramos is also promising retribution at the polls as he seeks to mobilize Latinos against the Republican Party.

A similar threat was made last year in Texas. Heck, the entire Battleground Texas strategy was based on turning out Latinos angry at the "hateful rhetoric" coming from the GOP about immigration. The then Mayor of San Antonio Julian Castro smugly declared that Republican candidate for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick - an immigration hawk much like Trump - was the "meal ticket back in" for Texas Democrats.

The meal was never served and Texas Democrats are still starving for a statewide victory. Dan Patrick  went on to win the male Hispanic vote  against his opponent, Latina Leticia Van de Putte. Texas Democrats suffered an historic defeat while the "anti-immigrant" Republicans recorded a higher Latino vote than when pro-immigrant George W. Bush ran for re-election.

Of course, that's Texas and it is highly unlikely that Republicans will win more than the traditional 30% (±3%) of the Hispanic vote in a national election. If that were to happen it would be a blessing for Latinos. It would expose that there is no such thing as a uniform Hispanic community. The well to do Cuban immigrant in Miami has little in common with the migrant worker from Mexico. Latin American immigrants come from different national origins, cultures, races, socio-economic groups. Sharing a language does not equal a distinct ethnic group. Would anyone suggest that Canadians, Americans, British, Australians, New Zealanders are alike because they share the English language?

Yet, that's exactly what has been done as far as Spanish speaking immigrants in America as G. Christina Mora details in her book "Making Hispanics: How Activists, Bureaucrats, and Media constructed a New American.   The creation of a  new identity category has served well business interests since they can claim to be serving a much broader Hispanic community instead of distinct Spanish speaking nationalities. Individuals like Jorge Ramos can pose as the defender of people coming from all over Latin America instead of representing the much narrower group of  immigrants from Mexico.

In the political sphere, there has been an effort to turn this manufactured Hispanic community into a reliable voting bloc for the Democratic Party much like African-Americans. Even the same tactics are being used as self-appointed leaders choose the policy agenda and decry any deviation as anti-Latino. Hispanics that don't agree with the agenda are viewed as undermining their community. This may help Democrats win elections but it will not serve Latin American immigrants in the long run as one party will take them for granted and the other will ignore them. Just ask African Americans.