Eye surgery could take him out of office

Kyle Lowe/The Collegian

Associated Students, Inc. President Pedro Ramirez was once again the main topic of discussion at Wednesday’s ASI meeting. Ramirez revealed that he may resign from office if surgery is necessary for an eye injury that he received in a traffic accident on Jan. 9.

Formal reviews had been scheduled for the offices of Ramirez and Vice President of Finance Cesar Sanchez, but the actions were postponed by the student senate after the American Civil Liberties Union questioned the legality of the process.

With a number of media present, attendance was standing-room only. The public comment session occasionally became raucous, with Fresno State senior Neil O’Brien speaking first.

O’Brien has paperwork verifying that a Pedro Ramirez with the same birth date and address as the ASI president is registered to vote in Tulare County.

“Illegally registering to vote is, I believe, a federal offense,” O’Brien said, “which I believe is a felony.”

Federal laws authorize the prosecution of non-citizens for registering and voting in elections. Aliens can be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 1015(f), which criminalizes making a false statement or claim about citizenship “in order to register to vote or to vote in any Federal, State, or local election (including an initiative, recall, or referendum),” and under 18 U.S.C. § 911, which prohibits making a false claim of citizenship. The penalty can be a fine, imprisonment not more than five years or both.

O’Brien went on to question whether certain members of ASI had been holding “secret meetings” about whether it was legal to use funds from California State Student Association to fly Ramirez to Washington, D.C. last year in support of the DREAM Act, and how someone in the country illegally was able to board an airline and fly across the country in the first place.

“Students should know that they paid for Pedro Ramirez to fly to Washington, D.C.,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien then questioned whether Ramirez was “really illegal,” or if he was “legal, and lying.”

A procession of speakers from both sides of the political aisle took their place at the microphone.

“I’m Mexican, and I’m tired of people always putting us down,” one woman said. “So just shut the [expletive] up,” to a man who asked. This was in response to a man who asked, “If Mexico was so great, why did [Ramirez’s parents] come here?”

Jason Carns of the Fresno Stonewall Democrats spoke in favor of Ramirez, reading a statement that said, “…both Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King believed that we should defy laws that are wrong.” He said that any senators who voted to remove Ramirez “will be viewed as being aligned with the racist, neo-Nazi elements.”

Ron Arteno, who is coordinator for the Auberry Branch of the Central Valley Tea Party, explained that “a citizen from another state has to pay a higher rate than an illegal alien,” and that legal resident aliens have to pay higher tuition than Ramirez does.

“We’ve seen your football and your basketball [teams] send criminals out there, and they were a poor representation of your student body,” Arteno said. “Pedro is a poor representation of your student body.”

Arteno was followed by Clovis resident Cindy Machado, who objected to the pejoratives that have been directed at O’Brien.

“What’s legal is legal, and what’s illegal is illegal,” Machado said. “Why aren’t you focusing on becoming a citizen?” she asked Ramirez. “I’m tired of being the guilty party and you being the victim.”

The student senate’s bylaws state that Ramirez or Sanchez can only be removed from office if one or the other were to miss three or more senate or executive officer meetings in one semester, or if their grades or conduct fall below school standards.

Fresno State student senate attorneys will evaluate the ACLU’s accusation.

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