There is considerable Internet discussion underway about the Mexican roots of Mitt Romney's family. It's a fascinating and complex story. Unfortunately, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos has muddied the waters with the simplistic suggestion that Romney is actually Mexican-American.
In his interview last week with Romney, Ramos introduced the story by equating Romney's background with that of Bill Richardson.
Said Ramos: "The mother of former Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, she was born in Mexico and he calls himself Mexican-American. Your father was born in Mexico. So the question is: are you Mexican-American. Could you be the first Hispanic president?
In trying to be provocative, Ramos was misleading. The Richardson-Romney parallel is far less substantial than he suggested. Richardson was born to a Mexican mother and a Mexican-American father. While his mother came to the U.S. from Mexico to give him birth, Richardson was raised in Mexico City. He first lived in the U.S. as a prep school student.
On the other hand, while Romney's father was born in Mexico in 1907 – to a Mormon family that had moved there two decades earlier to flee U.S. efforts to end polygamy – he was not a Mexican citizen. Romney's grandparents brought their family back to the U.S. in 1912, fleeing the violence of the Mexican Revolution.
Ramos should know the background because it was presented in the Ruben Navarrette column that Ramos cited in his Twitter account earlier this month. Navarrette wrote that Romney's family "were all denied Mexican citizenship because statutes on the books in Mexico denied that right to American settlers and their offspring."
That observation didn't stop Ramos from making the contradictory claim that Romney's father was "Mexican by definition – I just read the Mexican Constitution."
Earlier in the discussion, as Romney responded to Ramos's suggestion that he was Mexican-American, he said :" I would love to be able to convince people of that, particularly in a Florida primary. But I think that would be disingenuous on my part. Because in my case, my dad was born in Mexico. And I am proud of my heritage. But he was born of U.S. citizens who were living in Mexico at the time and was not Hispanic. He never spoke Spanish, nor did his parents. So I can't claim that honor."
Romney came back to the family history issue after Ramos noted a poll that showed Mexican-American voters heavily favor President Obama over the former Massachusetts governor. Said Ramos: "You wouldn't even get 25 percent."
Said Romney: "Just wait. We'll get that quote out there where you say I'm Mexican-American, and I'll do a lot better."