Fresno State ASI president leads cry for immigration reform

FRESNO, Calif.

University officials estimate as many as 500 people rallied in support of the DREAM Act, which would give some undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. But they were met by opposition as well.

The free speech area on campus was packed Friday afternoon with students hoping to earn American citizenship. Their strongest case may come from the student body president who is now a national figure.

Pedro Ramirez has become the face of a national movement to change immigration policy. Fresno State's student body president admitted to Action News this week he's an undocumented immigrant. Now, he's hoping a stalled piece of legislation can change that.

"I want to contribute to my country just like everybody here," said Ramirez.

The DREAM Act would give Ramirez and thousands of other undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship by attending college or joining the military. The student body president has the university president in his corner.

Dr. John Welty says current laws amount to a hypocrisy that doesn't allow the American dream for everyone. He says a path to citizenship is the best way for undocumented students to pay back what they've been given.

"If they get a college education, they have the ability to return many fold tax dollars back to this state," Welty said.

Welty says Fresno State has more than 300 undocumented students and many shared the stage at Friday's rally. But even in the middle of hundreds of supporters, opponents made their voices heard -- at least until they got drowned out.

They're calling the DREAM Act unfair, saying it would signal to people out of the country that they can cheat the legal system and still get citizenship.

"Definitely the immigration system has to be reformed and maybe we should be focused on that rather than giving amnesty to illegal aliens," said Lori Nakaguchi.

Ramirez got his biggest cheer when he told the crowd he won't resign his position. He says he was elected to make dreams come true and that's what he intends to do.

The DREAM Act, however, isn't scheduled for a vote at this point.

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