While Fresno State students have been away on winter break, Associated Students, Inc. President Pedro Ramirez, whose revelation to The Collegian that he was an undocumented immigrant made national news, has remained in the news for good and not so good reasons.
In early December, Ramirez visited Washington, D.C., to advocate for passage of the DREAM Act, which would have given a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who entered the country before they were 16.
“With passage of the DREAM Act,” Ramirez said in a statement, “the ‘dreamers’ (undocumented students) will be able to contribute far more and to prove their merit in this great nation.”
The House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act by a vote of 216-198 on Dec. 8, but the bill failed to pass the Senate on Dec. 18, coming up five votes short of ending a Republican filibuster.
Ramirez vowed to continue to fight for the bill’s passage.
“Although we hit a huge road block, we must not stop advocating for the DREAM Act or immigration reform,” Ramirez said in a statement. “To all the DREAM students, I ask that you work harder. Please do not despair and do become more involved to show we can and we want to be part of this great country.”
Fresno State President John Welty, who supported the DREAM Act, also expressed his determination to continue to advocate the bill’s passage.
“I know the efforts to pass the DREAM Act will not cease,” Welty said in a statement, “and I will continue to advocate for this just and worthy cause.”
Though Ramirez’s efforts to pass the DREAM Act ultimately failed, he still earned recognition from national news outlets.
The Huffington Post named Ramirez one of the “Top College Role Models of 2010” for revealing himself to be an undocumented immigrant and lobbying Congress for passage of the DREAM Act.
According to The Huffington Post, Ramirez and the other students chosen “triumphed in the face of adversity. They didn’t hesitate to fight — or study, or work for — something the believed in. They showed their true selves. And in 2010, they accomplished monumental things.”
It was around this time, however, that the embattled ASI president began to create news for the wrong reasons.
On Dec. 10, Fresno State student Neil O’Brien started a website called therealpedro.com, which, he said, is an “underground/online grassroots campaign to spread the word and expose the truth” about Ramirez.
O’Brien alleged that Ramirez has been illegally driving, working and contributing to political candidates, while questioning whether Ramirez is even an undocumented immigrant.
On Jan. 4, The Fresno Bee published an investigation into O’Brien’s claims about the ASI president. The Bee was unable to confirm many of his allegations, but did acknowledge that Ramirez himself admitted to having worked to help pay for his tuition. The Bee also found a voter registration record matching Ramirez’s name and age from Tulare County. It is illegal for undocumented immigrants to register to vote.
Then, on Jan. 9, The Fresno Bee reported that Ramirez got into a car accident, which sent him to the hospital and started a backlash among some in the community.
It is illegal for undocumented immigrants to have a driver license.
Ramirez had previously stated that he did not drive.
Welty told The Fresno Bee that he was “very saddened” about the accident. “Our first concern is for his recovery and my hope is that he will heal quickly and completely,” Welty said.
Ramirez will continue to face questions from his detractors as the spring semester starts, with O’Brien and his website likely leading the way.
“If Pedro has proven himself to be unfit for the position,” he said on his website, “then it is the obligation of the students to take a stand.”