One secret. That’s all it took to throw Cal State Fresno Student Body President Pedro Ramirez’s life into controversy.
When the high school valedictorian was filling out college applications and his parents clued him in on a major detail of his life…he wasn’t a U.S. citizen. He was born in Mexico, and came to the country with his parents when he was three.
Recently, an anonymous tip to his college newspaper forced Ramirez to confront the secret of his immigration status.
“In a way, I’m relieved,” said the now 22-year-old political science major from Tulare, California. ‘I don’t want to be a liability or cost the school donations. I never thought this was going to happen. But now that it’s out there, I finally feel ready to say, ‘Yes, it’s me. I’m one of thousands.’
School administrators say Ramirez has broken no rules by running for president of Associated Students Inc., because he never lied to the college about his status. In fact, when he discovered his position came with a $9,000 stipend, he declined knowing his status prevented him from legally working or receiving federal aid.
“He personally notified me and ASI advisers about his immigration status, and volunteered to serve without pay as president, since his status does not allow him to receive a paycheck,” said Cal State Fresno President John Welty in a statement.
Nevertheless, his critics are angry, and say he wasn’t honest with the student body about his immigration status when he ran for the position.
UCF’s College Republicans’ president Cole Rojewski, who ran against, and lost to, Ramirez during Student Body elections, said, ”He misled the students…he should step down.”
The area around the school has a lot of farmland, and agriculture is dominant in the region, so issues like undocumented immigration is bound to cause controversy due to a number of the farm workers being immigrants, legal or otherwise.
Ramirez spends about 30 hours a week being a student representative, and does not receive any compensation. He is involved with the local community as an ACLU board member, and is also an advocate for the school’s Dream Network, an organization pushing for the passing of the DREAM Act, a proposed federal law that would allow students who are not legal residents to become U.S. citizens if, after graduating from high school, they go on and partake in 2 years of college or military service. The bill is to be voted on by the end of the November.
Wednesday, Ramirez said he had no intention of stepping down from his position without demand from those that elected him, but he does ask one thing of everyone.
“Could you leave my parents out of it? They’ve done everything for me.”