Hispanic Media Take on Obama

Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico, August 11, 2010

President Barack Obama has lost the most trusted man in the Hispanic media.

Univision’s Jorge Ramos, an anchor on the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network, says Obama broke his promise to produce an immigration reform bill within a year of taking office. And Latinos are tired of the speeches, disillusioned by the lack of White House leadership and distrustful of the president, Ramos told POLITICO.

“He has a credibility problem right now with Latinos,” Ramos said. “We’ll see what the political circumstances are in a couple of years, but there is a serious credibility problem.”

Ramos has been called the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language media, an unparalleled nationwide voice for Hispanics. {snip} Ramos may be on the leading edge of a movement within the Hispanic media to challenge the president on immigration–a shift that some observers believe is contributing to Obama’s eroding poll numbers among Latino voters.

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The editorials and commentary from the Spanish-language media have been brutal since April, when Arizona passed its controversial immigration enforcement law–a moment that crystallized a sense of urgency among Latinos but also underscored how little progress the White House had made on reform.

“Words matter,” Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart said in April on NBC’s “Meet the Press”–adding that Obama’s campaign promise, known as “La Promesa de Obama,” has gone unfulfilled. “We haven’t seen it.”

After Obama announced his decision to send 1,200 guards to the U.S.-Mexico border in May, an editorial in El Diario La Prensa of New York asked: “Who’s in charge in Washington?”

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“It is unprecedented what Spanish-language media has been doing over the past several months,” Cancela said in an interview. “Many in the administration thought there was a cozy relationship and the Spanish-language media would play the role of quiet cooperator. It has been a wake-up call.”

{snip}

“Latinos voted overwhelmingly for President Obama, and they expected him to keep his promise and he broke his promise,” said Ramos, author of the recently released book “A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto.”

“If he was able to get 60 votes for financial reform, if he can get 60 votes to extend unemployment benefits, how come he can’t get 60 votes for immigration reform?” Ramos asked. “So many Latinos feel there is a lack of leadership, and he is not fighting for immigration reform with the same intensity that he fought for health care reform.”

{snip}

The swing in opinion couldn’t come at a worse time for Democrats, who need a strong Latino turnout in November if they hope to maintain control of Congress. That voting bloc could be decisive in dozens of competitive House, Senate and gubernatorial races across the West, according to a report by America’s Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group.

But polls show signs of trouble. Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics dropped from 69 percent in January to 57 percent in May, even as his support among black and white voters remained stable, according to the Gallup Poll.

In a Univision/Associated Press poll released last month, only 43 percent of 1,521 Hispanics surveyed from March 11 to June 3 said Obama is adequately addressing their needs.

Ramos places blame on Republicans as well–as do the editorial pages of the country’s largest Hispanic daily newspapers–for doing nothing to resolve the immigration issue. But these papers say they never expected much from the GOP. Democrats, in their view, are a different story.

{snip}

Editorial page editors and Spanish-language journalists told POLITICO that their coverage reflects rising frustration in their community. For years, they said, Democratic leaders told Hispanics to be patient; now, their patience has run out.

At the same time, the Obama administration is set to deport more illegal immigrants this year than during the last year of the Bush administration, expelling otherwise law-abiding workers and tearing families apart.

“There is a disappointment of a promise that has not been fulfilled,” said Henrik Rehbinder, La Opinion’s editorial page editor. “More than disappointment is some anger, some resentment, over the fact that this administration was going to be sensitive to family separations, and they really are not.” The critique from Ramos could prove particularly damaging to the White House.

A Mexican immigrant and Univision anchor for more than 20 years, Ramos carries such weight with Hispanic-Americans that his commentary is viewed as the definitive take on an issue–“kind of the final word on it,” said America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry.

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