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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Illegal Immigrant Student Interned At California State Capitol

Posted By on Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 5:00 PM

click to enlarge The new "coming out."
  • The new "coming out."

Coming out of the closet as gay is so circa 1999. Now it's all about coming out as an illegal immigrant.

Everyone is doing it: Fresno State University student body president Pedro Ramirez came out as illegal last year. Last month, former Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas fascinated New York Times readers with the news that he's been an illegal immigrant all along, even while winning his Pulitzer Prize.

Now it comes out that illegal immigrants have not only succeeded on college campuses and in newsrooms, but in the very seat of California's power: The state Capitol. Today, MSNBC published a piece on "Sergio," an illegal immigrant who has interned for California State Assemblymen Tony Mendoza and Marty Block.

The piece gave Sergio anonymity (we only know he's a student at San

Diego State) in return for the scoop on his internships in Sacramento.

Sergio said he had revealed his status to the staffers in Mendoza's

office, but kept it a secret while working as an intern at Block's office in July.

Still, both assemblymembers told MSNBC that they were

fine with it. "These individuals deserve the right to be employed in our

country," Mendoza said. Block skirted over the issue of undocumented office hands, just saying internships are "a part of preparing our next generation for a role in politics and

exposing them to what happens behind the scenes of government."

Both of Sergio's internships were funded by private nonprofit

organizations, the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project and the

Equality California Institute. Sergio said that the Equality California internship didn't ask for information on his citizenship status. Both organizations could not be reached

for comment on Tuesday. 

Kathy Gin, the executive director of Educators for Fair Consideration, a

San Francisco-based organization that advocates for opportunities for

immigrant students, told SF Weekly she hasn't heard of undocumented

students working in government.

"I do know a lot of undocumented students would love these jobs, and are

often teased about being fascinated by U.S. politics but not even being

able to vote," Gin wrote in an e-mail.

Sergio had a response to that, too. He said that though he can't vote in

the United States, he can make an even more directly impact policy

through working for lawmakers: "I was actually advising the member on how to vote on certain things by collecting information, by analyzing

bills, by doing things that other people are not able to do."

So who's the next to "come out?"

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly.

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Lauren Smiley


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