“Like it or not, the Hispanic media perceives that approving or rejecting immigration reform is in the hands of John Boehner. When you listen to local radio stations and even national media, most of us are concentrated on John Boehner. We don’t even have a problem pronouncing his name.”
That’s from Jorge Ramos, the widely influential anchor for Univision who has been described as the “Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media,” in an interview with me today. Ramos left little doubt that Boehner and fellow House Republicans will get absolutely crucified by the Hispanic media if Republicans fail to support comprehensive reform.
The views of Ramos and others in the Hispanic media are mostly overlooked inside the Beltway. But Obama is set to take his case to that media directly: The White House just announced he will do a round of interviews with Hispanic media tomorrow.
By the way, there’s no dismissing Ramos’s criticism of Boehner as partisanship. He was a relentless critic of Obama during his first term for breaking what was widely known in Latino media as “the promise” — the vow to pursue immigration reform.
Indeed, Republicans are plainly looking to minimize the damage they will sustain among Latinos by debating a “piecemeal” approach designed to make them look as if they see the need to act on reform. But right now, Ramos says, the bulk of the coverage in Hispanic media strongly suggests it will be hard for Republicans to avoid most or all the blame if it fails.
“In the end, you just have to follow Hispanic media,” Ramos says. “The question is, who is responsible for failure? So far, the answer is Republicans.”
Interestingly, Ramos says some Hispanic media figures are open to the prospect of House Republicans passing immigration reform piecemeal, as they say they want to do, because that could end up getting the debate into conference. But he says most in the Hispanic media will want to see a path to citizenship in the final product — “you don’t want to have a country with two categories for residents,” he says — and that any process moves by Republicans that result in scuttling reform aren’t going to obfuscate who is responsible for killing it.
Indeed, to hear him explain it, many Hispanic media figures are very closely familiar with how all this is playing out in terms of Congressional process. “Any kind of maneuvering to prevent a vote will be seen in a very bad light,” Ramos says. “It could go from preventing a vote, to not bringing the issue to the floor for a vote, to rejecting a final bill agreed on in conference.”
But what about the argument from some opponents of reform that even supporting it won’t enable the GOP to win over Latinos? That may be true, but Ramos says they won’t even give Republicans a first look if they are seen killing reform.
“Immigration reform is a prerequisite for a new look at Republicans by the Hispanic community,” Ramos says, adding that any failure to give reform a vote in the House would be “political suicide.”
“Truth or not, the message repeated constantly in the Hispanic media is that the approval of any kind of immigration reform in the House depends on Speaker Boehner,” Ramos concludes. “He is the man, Latinos know it, and won’t forget it.”