He’s the Cal State Fresno student body president — and an illegal immigrant
Let’s all go out and celebrate!
Campus officials say Pedro Ramirez, who came to the U.S. from Mexico at age 3, has not violated any school rules, and declined the $9,000 stipend because of his immigration status. Critics call for his resignation.
He was to study hard, get good grades and claim the prize, but it wasn’t until that night in their kitchen when the high school valedictorian was filling out university applications that they told him a missing detail — he wasn’t a United States citizen. He was born in Mexico. He came to this country when he was 3 years old.
Now, an anonymous tip to the college newspaper has forced Ramirez to publicly expose his secret and has put this son of a maid and a restaurant worker into the thick of a debate on immigration and education that has reached a boiling point in recent weeks. Some have called for his resignation while others have rallied to his defense.
Ramirez’s critics say he wasn’t honest with the student body about his immigration status when he ran for president and should resign. “He misled the students … he should step down,” Cole Rojewski, president of the campus’ College Republicans and one of Ramirez’s opponents in the race for president, said in a television interview.
However, School administrators said Ramirez broke no rules by running for president of Associated Students Inc. “This is yet an additional reason why there needs to be reform with today’s current immigration laws or lack thereof,” stated a university official who wished to remain anonymous.
Democratic leaders in Congress have pledged to vote on the Dream Act before January (they did and lost).
The case was brought on behalf of citizens who are paying the higher out-of-state tuition rates. The group contended that lower tuition could not be offered to illegal students and denied to some citizens.
Meanwhile, University of California campuses, pushed by the state’s budget crisis to boost revenues, are taking unprecedented steps to recruit out-of-state and international students for the extra revenue and geographic diversity they bring to the cash-strapped system. UC campuses collect an extra $23,000 in annual tuition from each non-resident student.
On the Cal State Fresno campus, reactions over the revelation of Ramirez’s immigration status had one thing in common — passion, said Tony Peterson, editor-in-chief of The Collegian.
“It’s all either really anti-Pedro or all really pro-Pedro. No in-between,” he said. “Pedro was pretty popular before, but where we’re located in California there’s a lot of farming, a lot of farm workers. Immigration issues are big here, because we’re at the heart of it.”
On Wednesday, Ramirez said he had no intention of stepping down from his position unless the students who elected him demanded it.