Rally attracts diverse crowd

Matt Weir / The Collegian

The Free Speech area on campus was filled with students, faculty and community members on Friday as they heard speeches supporting the DREAM Act.

The rally came only days after Associated Students, Inc. President Pedro Ramirez admitted his undocumented status.

Fresno State President John Welty not only spoke in support of the DREAM Act, but he also chanted with those present.

“It’s time for Fresno State to lead the way,” he said. “I ask you today: Don’t let your commitment stop here.” He also encouraged students to contact Congress to pass the DREAM Act.

Welty said he had a responsibility to voice what was the right decision. “I speak on behalf of all the AB 540 students in this country,” Welty said at a press conference after the rally.

Most of those that attended carried signs in support of Pedro and other AB 540 students.

Families with children were also in attendance. Martha Calderon brought her two grandchildren to the rally to support students. Calderon said that she thinks that those that oppose the DREAM
Act and AB 540 students do so out of fear that among them there will be a leader that would stand up for the Latino community to end the oppression.

Among the supporters, students and community members who opposed the DREAM Act also made their presence known.

“If the laws were correctly applied here, Pedro would have never been in the United States to run for the ASI presidency,” student Neil O’Brien said. “This is sufficient evidence that proves that his presence, the election and his presidency are illegitimate.”

In a public statement to the media surrounding them, O’Brien and a small number of supporters demanded the removal of Sanchez as president of ASI.

“The University of Fresno, Mr. Welty and Mr. Oliaro should withdraw their support of the usurper, Pedro Ramirez, because university bylaws do not tramp the laws of the country and the Constitution of the United States,” O’Brien said.

The rally was hosted by Adriana Sanchez, an AB 540 student who asked governor candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman about their stand on the DREAM Act during the October debate held at Fresno State.

She was followed by other students who made public their legal status, many for the first time. These students talked about their experiences and fears as AB 540 students.

Byron Castillo, a former Fresno State AB 540 student who graduated in 2007, struggled being able to afford food and tuition. “Luckily I worked at a restaurant,” Castillo said. He worked full time while attending school.

Castillo has a bachelor’s degree in social work but is currently working as cook at a restaurant. He says he has lost hope for himself. “I am here today, I might not be here tomorrow.” If the DREAM Act passes, Castillo said he would return to school to get his master’s degree.

“Maybe once I was an inspiration for some of them, now they are my inspiration [for me] to come back and do something again,” Castillo said.

“Today I decide to stand in front of you and say, I am undocumented and I am unafraid. DREAM Act Now!” Sanchez said.

Ramirez was the last speaker at the rally. When he took to the podium, the crowd greeted him with cheers, applause and chants.

Ramirez said that he would not resign. “I followed the rules and regulations, and there is a democratic process to get me out,” Ramirez said. “This is democracy, this is America.”

“If the people that are citizens here…think that we are devaluing your citizenship, then I’m sorry, but I would love to add more value [to] it.” Ramirez said.

The rally came to an end with debate between the two sides still raging on.

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