Ramirez filed a wage claim requesting her unpaid wages. // Photo courtesy of Ana Ramirez
By Ian Ferguson
Ana Ramirez, an undocumented student, is taking legal action against Western after failing to receive $7,408 in wages for her work as part of the Associated Students elected government. The university refused to pay Ramirez when she stepped into the role because she was not yet covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the necessary documentation for undocumented student workers.
On Tuesday, Ramirez filed a wage claim against Western with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries requesting her unpaid wages.
Ramirez was elected by the student body in spring 2017 for the position of AS vice president of governmental affairs. She said she worked an average of 19 hours a week without pay from June 19, 2017 to Feb. 5, 2018.
Although she was elected in April, Ramirez said she was not told she wouldn’t be able to fill her position until June. On Aug. 17, AS created a volunteer position for Ramirez.
The Western administration said it was in accordance with federal law that Ramirez could not be paid until her status DACA was approved, according to a 2017 Western Front article,
“Until or unless an undocumented student candidate receives DACA approval, that student cannot be employed by the university in any capacity,” Director of Communications and Marketing Paul Cocke said in a 2017 email.
Ramirez applied for DACA after being elected for the position. She received approval for DACA shortly after stepping down from her volunteer position in winter quarter 2018. She assumed her position on the AS government in April 2018, receiving compensation.
At the time, Ramirez said her lawyer believed there were other ways for her to assume the position with payment until her DACA was approved; she could have been paid through stipend, accepted payment for tuition or housing, or received scholarships.
Although Ramirez hopes to receive payment from the university, she said she also sees this as an opportunity to hold the institution accountable for their actions.
“If I do not do this, the university and the world will never learn that we as immigrants will no longer stand for the injustices perpetrated against us,” Ramirez said in a statement about the legal action. “I do not like doing this, I never have. But this fight is not about me.”