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Fresno State student body president acknowledges he is an illegal immigrant [Updated]

Illegal Pedro Ramirez, Fresno State's student body president, is an undocumented immigrant serving in the position without pay.

Ramirez, 23, attends school on scholarships and pays in-state tuition. California is one of 10 states that permit undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition -- a position that was upheld by the state Supreme Court this week.

After his election last June, he told the administration he would serve without pay -- a $9,000 stipend -- because he could not lie on employment papers. On Tuesday, an anonymous tip to the college newspaper forced Ramirez to go public.

Ramirez, who came to U.S. at the age of 3, said he did not know he was not a citizen until he was a senior in high school. As long as he can remember, he said, his parents -- a maid and a restaurant worker -- have told him he must work hard and achieve the American dream. He said they did not tell him he was not born in this country until he began applying to universities.

"I knew my parents were from Mexico, but a lot of people's parents are from Mexico," he said. "I grew up American."

Other than college counselors and administrators, Ramirez told no one of his status.

"I just kept it within. One of those things you don't tell anyone," he said. "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."

Ramirez said he would not resign his position unless the students who elected him demanded it.

The California Supreme Court's unanimous decision on in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants is the first of its kind in the nation.

Federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving college benefits based on residency and not provided to all citizens.

However, state officials insist there is no conflict with federal law. Under California's non-resident tuition exemption, known as AB 540 and approved in 2001, public colleges can offer in-state tuition to those who have attended California high schools for at least three years.

Some of those students are illegal immigrants. Others are U.S. citizens who attended high school in California but whose families may now live elsewhere, or those who moved out of the state to study or attended boarding schools in California.

[Updated, 12 p.m.: Fresno State President John D. Welty said in a statement that Ramirez personally notified him after his election about his immigration status and volunteered to serve without pay. Welty said that Ramirez has fulfilled all the requirements of an AB 540 student and that his status does not bar his participation in student affairs.

Associated Students Inc. "requirements do not address immigration status, so Mr. Ramirez was not prohibited from running for ASI office," Welty said in his statement. "I commend Mr. Ramirez and other AB 540 students who are following state statute as they seek higher education.” ]

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in Congress have pledged to vote on the proposed Dream Act before the end of the year. If approved, the legislation would allow students living in the U.S. illegally to earn legal status if they graduate from high school and complete two years in college or the military.

[For the Record, 6:14 p.m.: The headline on an earlier version of this post said Ramirez "refuses to step down." As the post notes, he said he would not resign his position unless the students who elected him demanded it.]


Police seek video surveillance footage in probe of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen's slaying

Dramatic video shows smash-and-grab robbery of Glendale jewelry store

-- Diana Marcum in Fresno

Photo: Pedro Ramirez. Credit: Pedro Ramirez for ASI President website

Comments () | Archives (157)

Ever notice how many jobs in Los Angeles REQUIRE that you speak "Espanol con Fluencia". Pay attention. I know that there are a some non-hispanics the manage to learn the language in this crappy school system (this is extremely challenging and mostly not the case), but let's be honest here--these jobs are going to the children of illegal immigrants who have an ADVANTAGE over English-As-A-Primary-Language Speaking Americans (as in non-hispanics). Say adios to your jobs.

I bet Pedro won half his votes because of Napoleon Dynamite. I will not put him on a pedestal...all these American youths going into extreme debt to pay for school and he's on a scholarship. I'd like to move to Sweden and reap some benefits cos I am smart and hardworking---This Country is so screwed!

I don't understand people saying he should be allowed to stay cause he's an outstanding person. Last time I checked, the requirements for US Citizenship were more than "he's a nice guy who's worked hard and got screwed over by his parents"

And if he didn't figure out he was an illegal until senior year? Wow that speaks very poorly of the kind of people running for Fresno student body prez

Deport him

..and why anyone need to apply for US Citizenship? Everything is available for everyone anyways..

Actually not just US citizen, but legal immigrant. You can have a student visa and still be legal. You can have permanent residence and be legal. Or E or H type visa.

There are limited spots in the California college system. Race has nothing to do with it, but citizenship does. How many college applicants were turned away or rejected due to illegal aliens like this one being admitted? We are not talking white, black or brown. The issue is legal and illegal!! This story is sad for the young man, but what about American citizens that are turned away from California State colleges to make room for this student and others? Is that fair? Hopefully the U.S. Supreme Court fixes this faulty law, obviously passed to assist illegal aliens.

Spare me all of the cries of "it's not fair!" from opponents of AB 540 students. Do you know what isn't fair? Punishing upstanding young people for the actions of their parents.

And the old "my ancestors/parents/grandpappy/whatever did it legally, so anyone can!" line is almost as bad. There is no faster way of revealing unexamined privilege than telling other people that your experience is universal.

This guy is going to get a parade, a medal and a banquet. Only in California.

Hang in there, Pedro! Don't let the bastards get you down! Go Bulldogs!

@lol, it's people like you who definitely define the word IGNORANT. Do your research and stop being the typical idiot. Fresno, though it may not be LA or SF is NOT in the middle of nowhere. Obviously you haven't taken a CA geography/history course. Half a million in population. The greater Fresno area amounts to 1,000,000+ residents. It is in the heart of California. SMACK DAB in the middle so you'd have to be blind not to have seen the word Fresno on a CA map. Fresno State may not be a UC or a Stanford or USC, but it has produced a lot of successful graduates who are proud to call this "middle of nowhere" place home/alma mater...not to mention, Fresno will be the start of the CA High Speed Railway. LA & SF may be known places in the US and internationally, but no need to knock on Fresno just cause it isn't LA/SF. No wonder why people in the midwest (Indianapolis, Detroit, Omaha, Cleveland, Nashville, Louisville, etc.) don't care for Californian elitists.

only the ignorant can judge a person for their race, color, or immigration status! it doesnt matter who they are or where they come from...this guy must of done something good to get where hes at...i think that these kids should be granted the same rights as any other citizen if they can and are doing something well for the community/ society! pshh. look at our "legal" peers....some dont even care for attending school given that their is soooooo much help out there....

While Mr. Ramirez wants The Dream Act to pass, to make up for his parents' lying, the colleges are already being impacted by students who have no legal right to be in the US. Americans who have gone to junior colleges to earn their transfer units, on the longstanding promise that they could be admitted to a CSU or a UC, are now being denied entry and told that the promises made to them will no longer be fulfilled, that they have to move to whatever community they earned the most amount of their transfer credits, and go to a CSU or UC there. We can't even attend our own colleges, located in our own communities, because of illegal aliens filling up the college slots. This is our country, our colleges, our state, and our tax dollars. The Promise was made to us.

Who says that a white person would be Student Prez if this person wasn't? There are legal whites and non whites who likely have similar credentials.
There are legal non whites and whites who could be Student Body President and enjoy scholarship support and in state tuition.

Who cares what the melanin ratio is? Origin doesn't matter either.

The only difference should be citizen versus non-citizen.

I am tired of people being rewarded while not following the rules. California and all the other states that allow illegal immigrants benefits of whatever kind have bad laws on the books.

Why bother organizing, establishing and managing a government if there is no follow through on the parameters?
The parents set him up. However, it is his time to be an adult now and do the right thing. He needs to go through a process to be a citizen. I can see giving him access to that route but he should not be rewarded ahead of his status.
We all have challenges.

@Isabel: We agree with your point about the original headline. You'll see we have updated it and appended a For the Record to the post. Thanks!

-- Henry Fuhrmann, on behalf of the Times copy desk and Web team

Illegal is illegal.
Law breaker.

its like saying...they act like all the fruits and vegetables in the cafeterias scattered around the bulldog campus are like 100 percent legally picked,come on people...leave the young man expierence the crown jewel of being 'STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT.

This seems like a case of academic dishonesty. I wonder if he is getting Pell grants or Cal grants. There seems to be some act of omission in him not being forward, upfront and public in why he did not take the salary. It's disgusting that the President participated in this cover up. They both should go before the Academic Affairs committee at the school and face sanctions, including expulsion and termination.

The tragedy is that there is a Chicano student somewhere at Fresno state whose parents helped build this country legally through taxes and hard work who is not the student body president.

And, why is this guy even running for this prominent post knowing his status? I'd lay low and keep under the radar until getting a Green card. Yes, he is a law-breaking scumbag who does not even care about this country's rules. Great example to lead a university.

That's fine by me- just get a make-over, dude- Ur out there!

This is sinful. Send him back to his home country as soon as possible.

the dream act is exactly what it says the Liberals are buying votes to keep our Once Great Country WEAK,AND YES THEY ARE DREAMING --I was born here and I can't afford to go to a CA college

The working class white family who need to put their children into a private school to get them same quality education they got, because our schools are inundated with the children of immigrants who perform poorly.

The student (perhaps white) that lost against Pedro, who no doubt had the local MEChA and La Raza student vote.

California, with its $24 Billion deficit, in large part caused by the education costs of children of illegals (whether born here or not)

Me, paying 9% sales tax ... used to be 6% before the demographic transformation of California via immigration.

These used to be considered racist and inflammatory comments, which I knew would show up as soon as I wrote the first post. They used to be banned, but the tide is turning back towards racism. The internet has provided a safe haven for such disgusting discourse. These are statements that were made in the 40s, 50s and 60s and the LA Times provides an avenue for them.

Deport him - Mexico needs smart people who'll work hard.

As Fresno State Alumni c/o 2007 -

His residency status is irrelevant to how he will serve as ASI president. The only reason he came out publicly is because someone blew the whistle on him to the school newspaper.

On the otherside, I don't think it's fair for him to be getting financial assistance "scholarships" from a system he/his family possibly did not pay into (assuming that are public funds).

Pleading ignorance should not make him a martyr nor does it evoke any type of sympathy or empathy for his situation from me. The only kudos I can give is to his parents who instilled values and strong work ethic in him.

So now that he's gotten his 15 minutes of fame. What is he going to do for the Fresno State Student Body???

LOL, and my tuition is going to raised another 8%, to over 12k? After the what, 30% increase already? I don't understand how they justify making me pay more, not because the "cost of education" is increasing, but because they hand out so much money.

It's a misleading, dishonest, cycle. They will claim that there are people who cannot afford tuition (loans, rotc, etc...), and increase everyone's tuition to cover the "freebees." Then, since tuition is more, they have to help those people out more, and increase the tuition again, and so on....

If everyone was responsible for their fair share of tuition, the cost would be much lower... what's the current % of students within the UC system receiving free pie?

So Daniel--Pedro is a white person- as being Mexican is not a race. That being said, the guy got a free ride, and he's still in college at 23. The article doesn't say what his major is so we don't know what he is going to offer our society. When I was in college, no one I knew had the time to care about voting for anyone running for student office. We held down jobs as well as went to class. We didn't have the luxury of scholarships and grants. Personally, I'm not in awe of elected student officers. So, should he be deported? Iffy. But he should have to pay tuition. I still find it hard to believe that he didn't know he was illegal. If he knew his parents were then he had to know he was.

Pedro Ramirez is going to have a very difficult time working and getting a good job in America as an illegal alien. He won't be able to get a security clearance or work for a large corporation. American Citizens have to jump thru hoops to get these jobs. I have to assume that Pedro does not have a drivers license,a passport or a social security card and neither does his parents as they would not be eligible. Pedro knows exactly what he is doing and I don't feel sorry for him or his family. If the Dream Act is passed, everyone who votes for it can kiss their political career goodbye...and they should.

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