UVA students petition for removal of senator who refused to vote on illegal immigrant group

Students at the University of Virginia (UVA) are petitioning for the immediate removal of a conservative student representative who refused to vote in favor a university-funded group for illegal immigrants.

After a split vote Tuesday, the group was denied Contracted Independent Organization (CIO) status, which would allow it to book spaces on campus and apply for university funds. Although the group, known as “DREAMers on Grounds,” is already active on campus, it is not officially recognized by the university.

“Our mission is to create a more inclusive environment and an overall safe space for undocumented students at UVA through education and advocacy,” its Facebook page states.

The group took its case to UVA’s student government last week but was ultimately rejected after six representatives abstained from voting in favor of granting the group CIO standing.

One representative, Erich Reimer, posted the results to social media with a hint of his own commentary but later removed the post after being ridiculed by his peers.

“UVA Student Council news: bill approving a student group to support illegal immigrants at UVA has been defeated! #conservative,” Reimer posted to his Facebook.

Reimer took down the post and even sent a private apology to members of the student group. The apology, however, was not enough for some students who are now effectively calling for his impeachment.

“Our fourth demand is a public apology and the immediate removal of law school representative Erich Reimer,” the group’s petition states. “Even though the post was removed the next day, the harm had already been done; offensive terms such as “illegal” was [sic] used and he made it clear that StudCo (student council) was not to be trusted.”

The group did acknowledge Reimer’s apology in its petition but only by flatly rejecting it and refusing to issue forgiveness.

“This apology means nothing to us. There is no way that we can be reassured that this will not occur in the future,” the petition states before demanding Reimer’s impeachment because of his conservative “mindset.” “This individual holds other important positions in which he represents the university. However, StudCo is not a place in which he can hold office, with this mindset. He is to be removed immediately.”

The group is also demanding the establishment of an administration-run committee tasked with the sole purpose of investigating student representatives.

“Our third demand is for the university to conduct a mandatory review of student council. We demand that an ad hoc administration-run committee conduct this review,” the petition reads. “Additionally, this ad hoc committee needs to scrub for xenophobic representatives who have been placed in office.”

UVA’s student council published a statement in response to the petition, explaining that no representatives explicitly voted against the bill but simply abstained from voting, which necessarily resulted in the bill’s failure to pass.

“On Tuesday, six representatives voted for approval of DREAMers, and six representatives abstained. These six abstentions resulted in the failure of the bill to approve the creation of the CIO,’ the student council’s executive board explained in a statement released over the weekend.

In its statement, the board also denounced Reimer’s post on Facebook as “insensitive,” “polarizing,” and “tasteless.”

“The insensitive and polarizing comment made by Law School representative, Erich Reimer, has since been removed from social media. Erich has reached out to DREAMers on Friday personally to apologize for his tasteless remark, and he has expressed that he is looking forward to working with DREAMers to better Grounds and the student experience,” the board wrote in its statement.

The board then issued an apology of its own, describing Reimer’s social media post as one “hastily written in partisan fueled enthusiasm.”

“We apologize for the pain that this failure has caused to a group of students already marginalized by other institutions, and we are looking forward to working with DREAMers in the coming year,” the board said.

Some representatives abstained from voting, however, because of flaws in the group’s application rather than any sort of political motivations.

Representative Body Chair Brett Curtis told The Cavalier Daily that some abstentions resulted from questions that were unanswered in the application.

“This was due to a number of questions, which some representatives did not believe were sufficiently answered in their application,” Curtis said when explaining why the bill failed to pass.

Reimer told Campus Reform that he abstained from voting because of concerns that the new group would exist in violation of the contract between the student council and all CIOs.

“The CIO agreement says, ‘the CIO also represents that its activities and the activities of its members, whether or not sponsored or officially approved by the CIO, do not and will not violate local, state, or federal law or the university’s Standards of Conduct.’ Technically, undocumented status is of right now contrary to federal immigration law,” he said, explaining that his vote was guided by legal concerns rather than partisan interests.

“Because of this, I just personally could not bring myself to vote in favor of it,” he added. “Despite being personally a firm conservative, my voting rationale at the time was guided primarily by non-partisan student policy concerns.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski