Youth Weigh In On Immigration, Pedro Ramirez, And Cultural Diversity In America

Student Body President at Fresno State, Pedro Ramirez, recently revealed that he is an undocumented citizen who has been living in the United States since he was three years old. Although many people have expressed support, including Fresno State President John Welty, others have spoken out against him. In this piece, youth writers from The kNOw share their views on immigration, on Pedro, and on the power of cultural diversity in America.

If I were Pedro, here as an undocumented person, perhaps I would know exactly what to say and do. Maybe I would face all of my attackers and the words I needed to appease their feelings of hostility would flow smoothly and easily but then again perhaps I would simply be confused. Confused that my neighbors throughout the large duration of my life, the people I had been raised with, would even care that I wasn’t born at the correct location.

Perhaps I would be confused at the reason that although I had lived in America all my life, I was not considered “American”. Perhaps I would feel just as American as anyone else had I not held the same beliefs as they did.

Did we not go to the same schools, churches, and playgrounds? Did we not play together as children and learn the same materials during our adolescence? We had been raised together and in a similar fashion but in the end we led drastically different lives.

You lived your life on a firm and stable foundation with no danger of tipping over or falling, but I did not possess such privilege and I was supported by a foundation made of straw and glass, uncertain of how to walk or how to step without falling through and hitting the floor. Hoping that someday my foundation will be as stable as yours and could earn the title of “American”.
-Miguel, 15

Straight up, I would just say “f” you to people who say I don’t belong in this country. There are a lot of legal residents who waste their lives here and no one ever tells them to leave or that they don’t deserve to be here. Just because they have a stupid card with numbers on it, that’s BS.

I know people, including myself, who wake up at four in the morning who go to work in the fields, sometimes even walking to work, and they are busting their butts off getting treated like crap just to earn minimum wage. Then they get ten minutes to eat, then leave work at four in the afternoon when it can be a hundred degrees outside in the Valley, only to spend all their earnings on their family and get nothing out of it for themselves.

I’ve never seen a “documented” person out in the fields working. They mostly drive around with the air conditioner on in their cars telling us what to do. And who is to say that it’s our fault where we are born. We are naturally labeled as “illegals” and we have no way to fight it or try to do something. I think we deserve a fair fight. If only documented people could put themselves in our shoes where they work twenty years of their life from four in the morning to six or seven in the afternoon just to support their family and not get nothing for themselves.

We deserve to be here because we work hard just like everyone else. We persevere in rain, extreme heat, and hunger while people who work in offices with air conditioning in a suit drinking Starbucks decide who and what shouldn’t be here when they know they’re driving away in a Benz to their two-story house.

Someone very close to me is here illegally but she has done everything to make sure I am okay. She learned how to drive, works hard in the fields, sleeps four to six hours a day to only wake up the next day and do it all over again.
-“Jose”, 17

If I were an immigrant and in the same situation as Pedro, I would try my best to make everyone think or feel a little different about immigration, and I know it would be a challenge. The first thing I would try to do is show people that what I am doing is not wrong. Another thing I would try to do prove is that the way they are treating me is much like discrimination. Hell, it is discrimination. It’s almost like what if it were an Italian or German immigrant? Most mainstream people might be more okay with it then.

I really don’t understand how people can have a problem with people who aren’t from here. Personally it makes me feel quite off because I don’t mind. They don’t cause any trouble and they only want to be treated like normal people.

I am African American, but on the other hand, if I were a recent immigrant, I would want people to understand the reason why I came to the U.S. in the first place, even if it wasn’t my choice. If had been here since the age of three like Pedro, I would feel like this was my home and that I belong here.
-Jana, 16

If I were Fresno State’s student body president Pedro, I would work my butt off to stay in that position so I can give it my all in order to help my fellow students. It doesn’t matter who or what I am, what matters is what I can do, what I can bring to the table. If I worked hard to get to where I am, it means that I deserve it. Being “illegal” shouldn’t matter, I’m no different than anyone, I’m still human.

Instead of taking time to kick Pedro out of the country because he is not a citizen, why not work hard to make sure he becomes a citizen? Also, doesn’t the Constitution say “all men are created equal?” It is not all citizens that are created equal, it is all men. If I can make a difference, I will try my hardest and I know Pedro will too. It takes dedication and hard work to be the President of anything and it takes respect to get elected into that position. Pedro has earned both of these qualities, and I say Pedro stays.
-Yee Leng, 17

If I were in Pedro’s shoes, I would be disappointed at the people who want me deported back to my home country. In Pedro’s case, what matters most are his actions to improve his school community, not his citizenship status. Pedro was helpless about the fact that he was brought to the United States without papers when he was three years old. Since he’s been here so long, he’s like any other person, and he has a will to stay and finish college.

I realize that immigration almost always depends on the situation, person, or family. Parents make tough decisions about whether to come to the United States. In my case, I am Hmong and my grandparents’ generation lived during the time of the Vietnam War. They helped the Americans, and the Americans were withdrawing from the war, so my grandparents along with my parents came to the United States to be safe. Like most other families, they also came to better their lives and the lives of their children.

Immigrants come to America with hope in their eyes of a future or a new beginning, and it’s wrong to take that away from them. If immigration didn’t exist, we wouldn’t have the kind of diversity we have today. There would be little to no culture diversity. There would be no Whites, Asians, Mexicans, African Americans, and others. There would be no America.
-Denise, 15

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

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