Have you heard the story about Pedro Ramirez?
If you haven’t, Pedro Ramirez is an undocumented student at Fresno State University who was recently outed. By “outed” I mean that someone meant to harm Pedro by publicly informing on his status as an “illegal immigrant”. The story of his status as an undocumented immigrant resulted from an anonymous email to Fresno State’s University newspaper The Collegian who broke the story.
By now Pedro Ramirez his story has been widely covered by many of the news outlets. Pat Morrison of KPCC did an interview with him and you can catch it here. Pedro also happens to be bilingual and granted an interview in Spanish to Radio Bilingue which can be heard here.
Some basic information on Pedro Ramirez. He is a 22 year old undocumented student (a DREAMer) on his last year at Fresno State. Pedro is undertaking a double-major junior focusing on Agricultural Economics and Political Science. Prior to attending Fresno State he graduated as valedictorian of Tulare Union High School, enrolled at Fresno State in 2007 and currently serves as ASI President. Pedro was brought to California at the age of 3 from a small community in Jalisco, Mexico.
Pedro’s case is brings into question whether children of undocumented immigrants be granted in-State tuition privileges. In-State tuition privileges were granted to California’s undocumented students in 2001 with the passage of AB540 which was authored by the late California Assembly Member, Marco Antonio Firebaugh.
The law paved the way for qualifying undocumented students to pay in-state tuition (must have attended a California High School for 3 years prior) at state colleges (UC System, Cal State System and Community Colleges). Recently AB 540 was recently challenged and the California Supreme Court ruled ruled unanimously this week that undocumented immigrant students can continue to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. Prior to AB 540, undocumented students attending the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges were charged out-of-state tuition. In-State tuition at the University of California is currently $10,302, while out-of-state students pay $33,181.
Pedro Ramirez is scheduled to graduate next year, but his future is still uncertain due to his unresolved immigrant status. Even with a degree from a California university Pedro will still be an undocumented immigrant. He will still be unable to legally seek and obtain employment. Still be unable to get a passport, a drivers license and a social security number.
Pedro is amongst the 1.5 million undocumented immigrant students who eagerly await passage of the DreamACT. They’ve waited a very long time, being that the DreamACT was first introduced in 2001. We are heading into the tenth year and each year we add some 60,000 undocumented students graduate from our nations high schools to that figure.
The right and decent thing to do has escaped our leaders for far too long. How many more lives must we put on hold? The Economist has a great post “Amenesty and Decency” that explains why passing the DreamACT is good for the U.S. Want yet another no-brainer reason as to why we should pass the DreamACT? Because we’ll need all this kids to pay into Social Security in order to keep it alive. But, don’t take my word for it. Head over to NPR’s Planet Money and listen to the “Are The Social Security Trust Funds A Mirage”? pocast and ponder this:
“The policy choices that we have to make good on Social Security obligations are exactly the same with the trust fund or if we’d never had the trust fund,” MacGuineas says. “Raise taxes, cut Social Security benefits, cut other government spending, or borrow the money. That’s the only way to repay the money.”
It makes no sense to marginalize close to 2 million immigrants with a high school and college education. Immigrants who are yearning to be contributing members of our society. Some who are anxious to join and serve in our military, but can’t.
Truth is. This country needs all the Pedro Ramirez’ it can get.