This Latina College Student Was Too Afraid To Renew Her DACA Status And It Cost Her A Position In Student Government
Ana Ramirez is preparing to be a sophomore at Western Washington University. The 19-year-old recently ran for the position of Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the Associated Student Board of Director. The good news: Ramirez won and was elected to the position. The bad news: University officials pulled her from the position because she is undocumented and not a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient. Mitú spoke with Ramirez about what happened.
Ana Ramirez was ready to assume her position as Vice President for Governmental Affairs of Associated Students at Western Washington University.
“The position that I was elected to do is like a liaison between administration, the state legislature, the federal government, and the Associated students of Western Washington University,” Ramirez told mitú. “Part of my duties include chairing the legislative affairs counsel, which is a committee that creates the lobby day agendas. My position does all the work on the Western lobby day when we go down to Olympia to lobby. I’d oversee an office called the Representation and Engagement Program that puts on a voter registration drive, which is the largest of all of the colleges in Washington.”
But before she could take on her position, she was told that she might not be able to participate under federal law.
The AS Board Inauguration was a nice way to wrap up the year, as it was the last thing I needed to do before I could pack up and leave Bellingham for a bit. This year has been so long and wild and I never would have imagined I would be in the position that I am now when I first came to Western back in September. This year has been so draining and I'm so tired and I feel so dead and I almost dropped out and I thought about transferring so so so many times, but I'm still here and I'm doing good things and somehow I'm still alive and I owe that to all my lovely friends because I know that at the end of the day I will be okay because I have them ?? Also Larry came to the inauguration and I almost started crying LOL I love Larry ??
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“After careful research and significant review of both creative alternatives and the existing law regarding the possible means by which we can legally compensate our undocumented students who have not received DACA, we have not found a viable option that would allow for payment or even a way to allow for a student to engage in volunteer service when the work involved would otherwise be considered paid work,” Paul Cocke, the director of Office of Communications and Marketing for Western Washington University, told mitú via email. “As much as the University values undocumented students and has a deep commitment to inclusion, we cannot put individual students or the University at risk of violating federal or state law.”
According to both Ramirez and the university spokesperson, the point of contention in Ramirez serving on the Associated Students Board of Directors is her immigration status and lack of DACA, which is currently under review.
“A lot of the reason why I waited [to file for DACA] was because of safety concerns and worrying that the program would end,” Ramirez admitted to mitú. “If I paid $495 and then President Trump cancels this program then I lose all of this money. I need that money. Under President Obama, no DACA recipients were ever detained but now, under President Trump, DACA recipients started being detained. That’s really scary to see and I would be putting out all of my information to people that don’t even want me in this country and they could just find me and take me if they really wanted to.”
Volunteering for the position is also off the table, according to Cocke, because the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services deems that as work.
“In addition, federal law indicates undocumented individuals cannot hold a position that would normally include compensation such as an Associated Students elected position that is eligible for compensation,” Cocke told mitú. “Unfortunately, as for temporarily volunteering for an elected position, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) views such volunteering as ‘work,’ even if short in duration, and it requires proper employment authorization issued by that agency.”
But Ramirez says that something should be done to help undocumented students who, unlike her, do not have DACA as an option.
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“I am qualified for this position and the only thing holding me back is that I don’t have DACA right now,” Ramirez told mitú. “There are a lot of students that don’t qualify for DACA and they also deserve a chance to be on Associated Students or on the student government because DACA is an option for me but that’s not always going to be the case.”
While university officials acknowledge Ramirez’s talent and qualifications to hold the positions, Cocke told mitú that their hands are tied by federal and state law.
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“The University values and seeks to encourage strong student leaders,” Cocke told mitú. “Despite Ana Ramirez’ clear talent and leadership, the University is obligated to separate the individual talent and contributions from legal requirements as the law makes no exceptions based on those personal characteristics.”
As for why she is publicly fighting this fight, Ramirez credits her own desire to overcome her fear.
“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Nos quitaron tanto que nos quitaron el miedo.’ (They’ve taken away so much that they’ve taken away our fear.),” Ramirez told mitú. “We have to lose our fears.”
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