Telemundo’s Maria Celeste Arraras Tackles Latino Issues in Republican Debate

Maria Celeste Arraras News Telemundo
Courtesy of Telemundo

Telemundo news anchor Maria Celeste Arraras has a high-pressure assignment tonight: Grilling Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP pack on issues of interest to Latino voters during the presidential debate presented by CNN, Telemundo and Salem Media Group.

Arraras will be one of four panelists questioning the candidates alongside moderator Wolf Blitzer of CNN, CNN’s Dana Bash and Salem’s Hugh Hewitt.

The 9-11 p.m. ET debate will air on Telemundo in Spanish, with dubbed real-time translation, and streamed at and the network’s YouTube channel. The gathering at the University of Houston is billed as the only Republican National Committee-sanctioned debate to address Latino issues. It’s also the final TV face-off for the GOP candidates before next week’s Super Tuesday primaries in 11 states.

Immigration policy has been a hot topic for Republican candidates on the stump so far. The 2016 campaign also marks a milestone for U.S. Hispanics in featuring two top GOP contenders of Hispanic descent: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Trump, Cruz and Rubio are participating in the debate along with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Trump stirred outrage at the outset of his campaign when he asserted that many Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists. Trump’s vow to build a wall along the Mexican border to combat illegal immigration has been a pillar of his “Make America Great Again” platform. Cruz and Rubio have also taken strong stances on policies for dealing with undocumented immigrants and border control.

Arraras, a native of Puerto Rico, is prepared for a tough room tonight, especially as the candidates have been quick to criticize the questioners in past debates. Trump’s campaign has publicly sparred with another prominent Spanish-language TV anchor, Univision’s Jorge Ramos.

“It is important that we have participation in this debate,” Arraras told Variety. “We represent Hispanics and their interests. There is no doubt it’s important for the Republican Party to talk to Latinos in this election. This is a voting block that has incredible power.”

But the nation’s fast-growing Latino population is hardly monolithic. Arraras sees the debate as a prime chance for the candidates to explain their positions to undecided voters.

“They’ve said a lot of things about immigration,” Arraras said. “This time by having Telemundo in the room they know they’re speaking directly to Hispanics. It will be a matter of wait-and-see if they soften up (their messages) or stand their ground. The medium is going to be different; we will see if the message is going to be different.”

Arraras is a news veteran who joined Telemundo in 2002 after working as a news anchor for Univision. At present she co-anchors Telemundo’s nightly newscast and anchors the daily news and entertainment magazine show “Al Rojo Vivo.”

Arraras has been scouring polls and focus-group data to determine the biggest concerns for Latino voters this year. She emphasizes that those issues are not so far removed from the concerns of other voters. And there is little evidence that voters will support a candidate strictly because he has a Latino surname, Arraras said.

“Most people feel all Latinos care about is immigration,” Arraras said. “Of course they care about immigration tremendously, whether they are citizens or undocumented or have a green card. Our community is a very compassionate community. We care about being humane to families in this country, whatever their circumstances. But we are also interested in education, health care and the minimum wage — things that will bring up our families.”

Arraras’ role in the debate forced her to shift her anchor duties this week from her home base in Miami to studios in San Antonio and Houston. Cramming for the debate on top of her regular gigs has taken a toll, she admitted.

“The biggest challenge was preparing the debate while doing two different shows for Telemundo,” she said. “There’s a little bit of dark circles under my eyes. But other than that, I’m ready.”

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  1. mac says:

    Maria did a awful job moderating for CNN and asking questions. Whats up with her blue tongue and the way she enunciates words it’s like she’s trying extra hard to pronounce words which looks ridiculous. I had to turn the channel when it was her turn.

  2. ” No, Maria, I don’t get it at all, and the premise of your question is offensive and false. Of course we want Latinos who are here as legal citizens or future citizens, like we want and welcome all immigrants who come here to live and work and raise families, obey our laws and become part of our nation’s culture. We don’t want lawbreakers, including those who have contempt for our borders and laws, and neither should Hispanic-Americans, because this is their country too, and allowing illegal immigration is bad for the United States.

    Now, we can’t as a practical matter deport millions of illegal residents already here, so we have to find some other solution, but do we want lawbreakers and illegal immigrants, Latino or any other nationality? No, of course not, because if we want them, and have policies that attract them, then we’ll have more lawbreakers and no sovereignty. And I resent the efforts by you, and the liberal media, and cynical Democrats seeking votes at the expense of our economy and integrity of the nation, to intentionally confound legal immigrants, who come here in the great tradition of this nation, and illegal immigrants, who defy our laws.

    Both your question and the report it was based on insults American citizens of Latino heritage, because they presumes that American Latinos don’t believe in the rule of law and American sovereignty as much as any other citizen. I think they do. I know they do, and shame on you for implying otherwise.

  3. carol says:

    maria celeste telemundo, univision do not speak for all spanish american ok? you wrong when you did say to mr trump that all latinos against trump, may be all 11 million of latinos illegal against mr trump but not the latinos who is born in the USA ok? another thing why you don’t go to mexico investigate when central american emigrant pass illegal to mexico do you know what mexico do to this people? here in the USA we know what mexico do to those poor people, is funny telemundo and univision don’t investigate and say something about it why can you tell me why? all american knows how donal trump will make mexico pay for that wall of a course mexico will say no but if you don’t know how i recommend to you watch the right channel in english and not fallow your own telemundo or univision ok? and again doing what is right for the country and the citizen first, and do not use discrimination or racist just because somebody else is saying that true about it ok? also i see you that just you come to the debate to attack all republican candidates, question did you think you did help the emigrant to attack the republican? you just screw more for them don’t you feel bad about it? be more professional journalist.

    • disi301 says:

      Carol, next time you write, please check your English Language skills, they are awful. Maria Celeste is only making the right questions for illegal immigration. She is smartly trying to put the issues on the table. As for herself, she was born a US citizen, she is no immigrant. Just so you know.

  4. DRC says:

    The concerns of Latino voters should be pretty much the same as everyone. Doing what is right for the US and all its citizens first. If you are more worried about ethnicity than country you are not an American. No matter what race/ethnic group you come from.

  5. Dunstan says:

    I hope she asks him why he continues to rail against jobs lost to foreign countries when his own clothing line was made in both Mexico and China.

  6. Interesting that Trump won Nevada. That would prove wrong many off the haters who portray him to be this Neo nazi monster

    • Bob says:

      Trump winning Nevada only proves that people voted for him. It does not “prove wrong many off [sic] the haters who portray him to be this Neo nazi monster”.

      His win may, however, prove that a very large number of people in an advanced, educated country to support a demagogue who incites bigotry and violence, a billionaire born into wealth who claims to support the “common” person. If anything, Trump’s win in Nevada actually does suggest that his populist rise, backed by many low-educated citizens receptive to simplistic campaign tactics and advertising, is indeed comparable to the rise of Hitler. (Notice I am NOT comparing Trump to Hitler; I am comparing his *rise* to that of Hitler and other demagogues.). That is hard to quibble with.

      • Bob says:

        DRC – your reply is incoherent. Please explain.

        Did you see? Trumpism is now being practiced at school. Leadership starts at the top, and it’s sad what’s at the top.
        It’s totally disgusting what this man inspires in people – high school kids.

      • DRC says:

        Hey Bob when Hispanic groups advocate for illegals over citizens and country do you call them bigoted? So are you going to vote for all those Democrats who were not brought up in wealth too? Let me guess all the Hillary supporters are well educated, right?

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