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Fresno State Student Body President Acknowledges Undocumented Status

Eleanor Walper |
November 17, 2010 | 5:20 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter


Fresno State University (Creative Commons)
Fresno State University (Creative Commons)
Fresno State University’s student body president publicly announced his illegal immigrant status after an anonymous tip Tuesday to the school newspaper, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. 

Pedro Ramirez was elected last June as student body president and agreed to serve unpaid – as opposed to accepting the $9,000 remuneration – because he could not falsify his employment papers, according to the Times.

Amid controversy, Ramirez stated he would not resign his presidency unless the student body that voted for his election ordered him to step down.

California Legislatures passed AB 540 in 2001, which enables any student, legal citizen or otherwise, who attended a California high school for at least three years and graduated to be eligible for in-state tuition at a state college or university.  Nine other states, including New York and Texas, have passed similar measures.

“I knew my parents were from Mexico, but a lot of people’s parents are from Mexico,” Ramirez said in a statement to the newspaper.  “I grew up American.”

Ramirez came to the United States at age 3 and said he did not learn he was an illegal citizen until his parents told him his senior year of high school when he was applying to universities.

“I just kept it within.  One of those things you don’t tell anyone,” Ramirez said of his decision to keep his illegal status under wraps, except for college counselors and administrators.  “But now I’m almost relieved to have to be open.  Congress is about to vote on the Dream Act, which gives college students a path to citizenship.  So, you know, here I am.  It’s me, I am one of the thousands whose fate is in their hands.”

Associated Students Inc. “requirements do not address immigration status, so Mr. Ramirez was not prohibited from running for ASI office,” Fresno State President John D. Welty said in a statement made amidst debate over whether Ramirez is eligible to participate in student affairs.  “I commend Mr. Ramirez and other AB 540 students who are following state statute as they seek higher education.”

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have agreed to vote on the Dream Act before the end of the year before they lose control of the House of Representatives in January.   If accepted, the Act would allow students of illegal immigrant status to become legal if they graduate from high school and complete either two years in college or the military. 

Retiring Republican Florida Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart is also seeking a vote on proposed legislation giving states the option to allow illegal immigrant students to pay instate tuition.  “Allowing undocumented students to attend primary and secondary schools but requiring that they pay out-of-state tuition for college creates an unfair financial burden,” Diaz-Balart said. 

Reach reporter Eleanor Walper here.



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