In 2015, at a press conference, then–presidential contender Donald Trump told Jorge Ramos, the foremost Spanish-language news anchor in the U.S., to “go back to Univision.” That snide exchange is at the heart of Ramos’s new book, Stranger, which is part memoir, part essay, and part manifesto, offering a scathing critique of Trump that shows that Ramos has not lost his appetite for a fight.
In fact, the day before PW spoke with him, Ramos had yet another tense on-air exchange, this time with Fox News anchor and conservative firebrand Sean Hannity, in which Ramos argued forcefully that, contrary to what the current administration says, immigrants commit fewer crimes than natural-born citizens.
“You know why I do this?” Ramos asks. “Because we need to talk with those who don’t agree with us.” This is also one of the goals of Stranger, published in March by Vintage in Spanish and English, which presents a vivid reminder of how immigrants are an integral part of the U.S.
Ramos points out, for example, that there were more children of recent immigrants running for president in 2016 than in any other year, including Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump (his mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was born in Scotland and moved to the U.S. when she was 18). It also happens that four of Trump’s five children have immigrant mothers.
Yet many politicians who come from families of recent immigrants shun other immigrants, and Ramos dubs them “traitors” in the book. “It really surprises and terrifies me that there are immigrants, or children of immigrants, who at one point turn their backs on people like their parents or themselves,” he says. “This is why one of my missions is to fight: so the immigrants who come after me are treated with the same generosity that I was treated.”
The book is centered on the infamous confrontation with Trump during the 2015 Republican primaries in Iowa. Covering a press conference, Ramos stood up and asked a long question without being called, in a break with press conference etiquette. “I don’t have anything to apologize for, this is my job as a reporter,” he says. “Besides, if I had waited for Trump to give me the floor I would still be waiting.”
Some fellow journalists and critics complained at the time that the Mexican-born reporter staged the row, and Ramos acknowledged that a confrontation was exactly what he had in mind. “Television doesn’t just happen,” he says. “You have to create it.”
Ramos wasn’t counting on being escorted out of the conference by a bodyguard, however, and he was also surprised when a Trump supporter yelled, “Get out of my country,” at him. At that moment, he says, “I realized that I’m a stranger in the country where I have lived for 35 years and where my children were born, and that I will never be American enough for Americans.”
That dramatic moment was the culmination of a months-long series of grievances for Ramos. After Univision ended its business relationship with Trump’s Miss Universe organization in June 2015, following insulting remarks made by the candidate about Mexican immigrants, Trump divulged Ramos’s personal phone number on Instagram, prompting Trump supporters to call and verbally abuse the anchor.
The press conference fracas was mended by press secretary Hope Hicks, who invited Ramos back to the press conference to ask a couple of questions, but Ramos left the scene conflicted and bewildered. He reflected on his growing sense of distance with his native Mexico. “I began to realize that I am often a stranger,” he says, “but at other times I’m an amphibian—like author Sandra Cisneros refers to herself—who lives in different worlds.”
In Stranger, Ramos also addresses a number of other matters, including his career and the future of Spanish-language media in the U.S. In the most heartwarming part of the book, he reminisces about his childhood in Mexico City and the life lessons he’s learned along the way.
One chapter is about his mother, Lourdes, whom he describes as “the first rebel and the first feminist” in his life. “My mother grew up in a world in which she was not allowed to go to high school because she was being prepared to marry,” he says, noting that she had five children before turning 30. But when her children went to college, she joined them and studied humanities. “One of the most beautiful memories that I have is that I would run into her in the hallways on campus,” Ramos says.
The book includes Ramos’s poignant mea culpa for his inability to predict that Trump would win the election while losing the Latino vote. Still, Ramos has hope for the future, thanks to the Dreamers’ movement, to which the book is dedicated. He is also an admirer of the student activists from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., as members of a generation bravely embracing a new kind of leadership.
“It’s a leadership that is not quiet; it demands change and confronts those who disagree,” Ramos says. “They barge into congressmen’s offices and don’t take no for an answer. It’s a leadership that is rebellious and very focused, and I think it’s a good thing for the country. If the future of the U.S. depends on the Dreamers and the young Florida survivors, we are going to be in good hands.”
Carlos Rodríguez-Martorell is a New York journalist and book reviewer.