Photo by Danny Hammontree via Flickr Creative Commons

Conspiracy Theories Abounded

Dan Waterhouse

A self-identified Tea Party activist and Fresno State student couldn’t decide whether student body president Pedro Ramirez was an illegal immigrant. According to activist Neil O’Brien on his now-defunct Web site, www.therealpedro.com, he questioned whether “Pedro” was “really an illegal alien?”

“If so (Ramirez being an illegal immigrant), then it is possible he would be committing a list of felonious crimes with the help of administrators as detailed in our investigation,” O’Brien continues. “Or…is Pedro legal and LYING about being an illegal alien as a publicity stunt to become a poster child for the Dream Act aided and abetted by politician’s dirty money?” O’Brien goes on: “We are asking for the immediate resignation of the ASI [Associated Student Inc.] Presidency and investigation of the controversy and conspiracy surrounding Pedro Antonio Ramirez. The timing of this situation was too convenient and strategic to politically benefit Dr. [John] Welty, Pedro and possibly many others.”

O’Brien based his claim that Ramirez was perhaps lying about his immigration status on some Fresno County property records dating back to the early 1980s, before Ramirez says he arrived in the United States. However, the Fresno Bee found records in Tulare County that support Ramirez’s statements that his parents brought him here when he was 3.

Marisa Trevino of Latina Lista in an article headlined “Undocumented college student president target of hate website” posted on the California State University Public Affairs Web site, says a visit to O’Brien’s Web site “reveals a very disturbing picture. O’Brien addresses visitors to his site as fellow Patriots. He refers to the college campus as being in a ‘State of Siege’ and has a thumbnail picture that reads ‘Welcome to CSU Fresno—The Sanctuary College.’ He’s soliciting donations to fund what he terms as an on-going investigation of Pedro. Overall, the site resembles something to be expected from a white supremacy or hate group rather than a ‘citizen’s advocate’ as O’Brien likes to refer to himself.”

The Web site was taken down sometime overnight on January 6. O’Brien posted a note that his “investigation” was “no longer worth putting my safety at risk.” He invited readers to retrieve information from the cached pages on Google if they wanted to take up the efforts against Ramirez.

On the Web site, O’Brien suggested Ramirez is a domestic terrorist. O’Brien says, “Pedro’s statements of extreme nationalist devotion and Mexican pride as stated on his Myspace page and Tweets. His illegal involvement in foreign political parties. His involvement in extremist MEChA [National Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán] since high school that believes in the Reconquista plan to return the SW United States to Mexico, and the plan Aztlan, a manifesto advocating Chicano nationalism. His illegal status. We get a perfect case for the Department of Homeland Security and ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to take up an investigation to determine if Pedro is to be considered a terrorist.”

O’Brien then claimed Ramirez unlawfully set up a political action committee. According to the Internal Revenue Service form posted on O’Brien’s Web site, the so-called PAC is in reality the Fresno State College Democrats, a student club that has existed on campus since 1989 according to the Student Affairs Web site. According to the form, Ramirez filed the paperwork on behalf of the club with the IRS. The form also clearly says the group is “a college club.”

Also, O’Brien leveled accusations that Ramirez’s working on several campaigns, including Tom Boyajian’s, violates federal law. The federal elections Web site says that, although illegal immigrants may not vote or donate money to political candidates, they may be campaign workers as long as they’re not paid. The Fresno Bee said they could find no record of Ramirez ever donating money to a candidate.

Since the beginning, Fresno State gave O’Brien short shrift. O’Brien complained, “I have sent numerous emails, made dozens of phone calls, and other attempts to inform the ASI student government, the Collegian newspaper, local state and federal law enforcement agencies, university professors, and executive administrators (including Dr. Welty) of the issues and possible crimes being committed by Pedro Ramirez and others complicit in the scheme. Yet all of my requests for action and justice have fallen on deaf ears.”

O’Brien seems to be a clone of the two GOP activists who scammed ACORN and were caught possibly trying to tamper with a U.S. senator’s office phone system. And like them, O’Brien may end up in legal trouble. Ramirez, in a written statement issued through his attorney, said that they were investigating whether any laws had been broken by O’Brien in compiling his Web site.

Trevino describes O’Brien and his Web site as bullying because “he’s targeting one individual and posting things that are untrue.” The queer community certainly knows about that sort of thing.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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