Immigration activists are cheering for Cal State Fresno student body president Pedro Ramirez for being an example of the potential of America's illegal immigrant population. But since an anonymous tip to the school's newspaper outed Ramirez as an illegal alien who has been living in the U.S. since he was three-years-old, critics are demanding his resignation.
According to the LA Times, Ramirez learned he wasn't a United States citizen when his parents revealed the secret as he was filling out college applications. Ramirez carried the secret with him to Cal State University where the 22-year-old now studies political science.
"In a way, I'm relieved," Ramirez told the Times. "I don't want to be a liability or cost the school donations. I never really thought this was going to happen. But now that it's out there, I finally feel ready to say 'Yes, it's me. I'm one of the thousands.' "
But many are unhappy with Ramirez and are demanding his resignation, saying he wasn't honest with the student body about his immigration status when he ran for president. "He misled the students … he should step down," Cole Rojewski, president of the campus' College Republicans and one of Ramirez's opponents in the race for president, said in a television interview.
Meanwhile, Cal State school officials claim Ramirez broke no rules in running for student body president and cannot be forced to resign. "To our way of thinking he hasn't done anything wrong," said Paul Oliaro, vice president for Student Affairs.
"This is a very diverse region, agriculture is dominant, and this is going to cause a lot of controversy. But the reality is that these students are … here, they're legitimate students, and if anything, Pedro shows what they can contribute," Oliaro said, adding, "We'll see how this plays out."
It's unclear whether Ramirez's immigration status was disclosed to university admissions at the time he applied. With no citizenship papers, Ramirez reportedly couldn't qualify for most financial aid plans. However, he began attending the university after the state's legislature approved a law allowing any student who attended a California high school for at least three years to pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of citizenship status.
Though the anonymous newspaper tip revealed Ramirez's secret to his fellow students, school officials had known of his illegal status.
"He personally notified me and ASI advisers about his immigration status, and volunteered to serve without pay as president, since his status does not allow him to receive a paycheck," Cal State Fresno President John Welty said in a prepared statement.
The revelation of Ramirez's citizenship status comes as Democratic leaders in Congress are preparing to vote on the DREAM Act before the close of the 111th Congress and just two days after the California Supreme Court unanimously voted to allow illegal immigrants who graduate from state high schools to receive in-state tuition rates at California's public universities.