How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Not one, but two, undocumented student leaders have come out this week: So what, or now what?

Photo by un.sospiro/Flickr (Creative Commons)

From a graduation ceremony in Washington, D.C., June 2010

In the past two days, two prominent student leaders - one in Fresno, one in Miami - have revealed that they are undocumented. Earlier this week, CSU Fresno's student body president Pedro Ramirez, 22, confirmed his status to reporters. On Wednesday, 19-year-old José Salcedo revealed during a keynote speech at a student rally held at Miami Dade College's InterAmerican campus in Little Havana that he, too, is undocumented.

Ramirez, born in Mexico and here since he was three, is an academic star who was valedictorian of his graduating senior class in high school. Salcedo, born in Colombia and also here since childhood, is a student representative on the trustees board for Miami Dade College and a member of the school's Honors College, a distinction awarded only to 550 elite students on campus, according to the Miami Herald.

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In the news this morning: Two undocumented student leaders, DREAM Act update, judge rules against Tenn. mosque opponents, more

Should an illegal immigrant be student body president at Fresno State? - Los Angeles Times The LAT poses the question to readers after revelation that CSU Fresno student body president Pedro Ramirez is undocumented.

Miami student leader reveals he is an undocumented migrant - Miami Herald CSU Fresno's Ramirez isn't the only student leader to admit he lacks a green card. Colombian-born José Salcedo, 19, a college student government association president in Miami, has done the same.

Sen. Harry Reid vows to advance DREAM Act, 'don't ask, don't tell' legislation - Los Angeles Times Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced yesterday that the Senate will proceed with votes on the lame-duck session on both proposed measures.

Prosecutors: $30M Ponzi scheme targeted Muslims - The Washington Post A Pakistani-American taxi driver turned prominent Chicago businessman is among three people indicted for defrauding hundreds of Muslim investors, Pakistani and Indian immigrants, out of $30 million.

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Über-achiever student? Check. Undocumented? Check.

Photo by Josh Self/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Graduation cap and accoutrements, October 2010

A university student body president and former high school valedictorian, undocumented? Yes, and it shouldn't surprise anyone.

CSU Fresno's campus daily, The Collegian, revealed the immigration status of student body president Pedro Ramirez yesterday after contacting him regarding an anonymous tip, an e-mail sent to the daily alleging that Ramirez was serving as president without pay because he was undocumented. While he had not been out in the open about his status, save for with school administrators, Ramirez confirmed it.

From the story:

Ramirez said that ASI administrators were aware that he would not be paid for the ASI position, but he willfully accepted it as a volunteer position.

“For me, it’s an emotional issue,” Ramirez said. “Not a lot of people know that I am undocumented. A lot of people I got to class with…students, faculty, staff and staff administrators think I’m a normal student.”

Ramirez, an AB 540 student, didn’t know of his legal status until his senior year of high school before his graduation.

AB 540 is a California state law that allows eligible undocumented students to pay in-state tuition fees instead of the more costly out-of state fees.

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Quote of the moment: The Reid DREAM Act tweet

"I will move the DREAM Act as a standalone bill in the lame duck. It's good for the economy & Pentagon says good for natl security."

- A tweet from @SenatorReid, posted this afternoon


The tweet came from a verified account of the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada. The advocacy group America's Voice has posted on its website that a Senate vote on the DREAM Act, proposed legislation that would create a path to legal status for undocumented youths who attend college or join the military, is likely to occur after the Thanksgiving break.

A short blurb on the CapitolWirePR site yesterday afternoon noted that during a speech before Latino political leaders yesterday, New York Democratic Rep. Nydia Velasquez announced that House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced a tentative vote date of Nov. 29.

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Author Rick Nahmias on California: "We are the most diverse place for faith in the world."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oX6X0v8pvQk&feature=player_embedded

Zócalo Public Square recently featured this great interview with Los Angeles photographer, writer and filmmaker Rick Nahmias, author of Golden States of Grace: Prayers of the Disinherited. The book documents marginalized communities in California practicing their faith, among them Buddhists in San Quentin, a Mormon congregation for the deaf, and Latina sex workers who pray to Santa Muerte, the skeletal sacred figure whose cult originated in Mexico.

In the interview, Nahmias talks about how California's history as a landing place for migrants - including 1930s Dust Bowl Okies, who brought over Baptist and Pentecostal traditions - has made it such a rich place for religious diversity.

This diversity doesn't necessarily beget religious harmony, unfortunately, but it's another testament to California's role as the great melting pot of the 21st century.

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