Blurring the line between advocate and journalist, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos publicly disapproved of the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's immigration law Monday. In particular, the vote to uphold the "papers, please" provision of the law by Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court, came as a shock to the Spanish-language anchor.
"Surprised that Judge Sonia Sotomayor voted in favor of the police acting as immigration agents in Arizona. She could have stopped it, and she did not," he tweeted in Spanish shortly after the ruling was released.
The provision, which requires law enforcement to check the legal status of individuals they suspect of being in the country illegally, was not struck down by the court, and will "only create more persecution and discrimination in Arizona and other states," he said.
Ramos called Monday "a sad day for the Hispanic community," in an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC World Report.
However, Ramos' clear disappointment with the ruling and Sotomayor's vote seems at odds with the common journalistic practice of maintaining impartiality -- at least publicly. Ramos, who was en route to Mexico to cover the country's presidential election, did not respond by deadline to questions regarding his own opinions on immigration or why he found Sotomayor's ruling "surprising." Univision representative Jose Zamora wrote in an email to The Huffington Post that Ramos' disappointment was rooted in his worry for the Latino and immigrant community.
"I don’t think his main concern was about Sotomayor, but rather the general impact the Supreme Court decision will have in the Hispanic community, because it legitimizes racial profiling and discrimination against Latinos and immigrants in AZ," Zamora wrote.
Mirta Ojito, a professor at the Columbia Journalism School with expertise in Latino issues said Ramos' condemnation of the Supreme Court ruling is consistent with his style of reporting. "He seems to have decided a long time ago to become a sort of spokesman for his community," Ojito wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. "[His words] seem to reflect his true feelings, and he’s made them obvious in numerous occasions before," she noted.
Ramos, an immigrant himself, has been labeled the "voice of the voiceless" for his advocacy for immigrants rights. The Univision anchor wrote four books on the topic, and has criticized Democrats and Republicans alike for their perceived failures on the issue. However, Ramos recently fought to reassert his own "journalistic independence" after the Obama campaign used his image in a campaign ad.
"I want it to be clear that I object to the use of my image and Noticias Univision's image in any electoral campaign," Ramos said in Spanish in Univision news broadcast. "We are making this a public statement of our nonconformity. We've always defended our journalistic independence and will continue to do so."
Ramos isn't alone in navigating the roles of both journalist and immigrant advocate. Over the past year, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and migrant-rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas reported on immigration while simultaneously lobbying Congress for reform.
"Some have argued that, since I’m advocating for immigration reform, I’m no longer a journalist in the traditional sense," Vargas wrote in a blog post for his organization DefineAmerican. But Vargas argues, journalists cannot maintain traditional "simplistic, us-versus-them, black-or-white, conflict-driven narrative, often featuring the same voices making familiar arguments" in the immigration debate.
Rather, he said, the human issue requires a different kind of coverage. "Elevating the conversation means telling the immigration story not just through abstract policy points, but also through tangible human stories," Vargas wrote.
Ramos' lack of objectivity on immigration does not make him a bad journalist, but a different breed of journalist, Columbia Professor Mirta Ojito wrote in an email. Ojito compared Ramos to English-language columnist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times or CNN host Anderson Cooper who, she wrote, was "outraged and with tears in his eyes, in the aftermath of Katrina."
"Many journalists make the decision to remain publicly neutral about events, and that’s good," she wrote. "That’s the way most of us were taught and the way many of us continue to think about journalism, but others make a different choice and are much admired for it."
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