Helen Aguirre Ferré said Thursday she will not step down as head of the board of trustees at Miami Dade College after taking a new job as the Hispanic communications chief for the Republican Party.
Democrats and activist groups have been calling on Aguirre Ferré to leave her post at the college because her new job will require her to support Donald Trump and other Republicans who want to deport undocumented immigrants.
“I will not cow to political pressure,” Aguirre Ferré said after days of silence on the issue. “It’s never been a secret that I am a Republican. I’ve been a member of the board of trustees for many years now and I do so as a volunteer. I believe in the mission of community college and what it offers to students.”
On Monday, the Miami Dade College DREAMers started a petition demanding that Aguirre Ferré step down. Miami-Dade County GOP chairman Nelson Diaz said on Tuesday that if he were in Aguirre Ferré’s position, he would step down because of pressure from Democrats and activists.
“It’s sad because she is putting Miami Dade College in a very bad position,” Maria Bilbao of the Miami Dade College DREAMers said. “She has to promote Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a racist. He wants to deport me, my son, 11 million immigrants and Muslim people.”
Aguirre Ferré, who recently deleted anti-Trump Tweets from her account, did not refer to the presumptive Republican nominee by name on Thursday and emphasized that there are other issues beyond immigration that matter to voters.
“I’m not a one-issue voter,” Aguirre Ferré said. “I know that we will be able to present to voters a Republican platform that will bring the country to a better future. Last week’s jobs report was dismal, one of the worst on record, and speaks volumes about the current administration.”
Aguirre Ferré referred to her past anti-Trump statements as a “non-issue” and said she supports him. Her main focus right now is on beating Hillary Clinton, who clinched the Democratic nomination earlier this week.
“The real focus is to ensure that Hillary Clinton with her record doesn’t win the White House,” Aguirre Ferré said. “She is proven to be an untrustworthy person and the polls reflect that; this isn’t just my opinion.”
Miami Dade College has a large immigrant student population and has issued scholarships to undocumented immigrants in the past. The DREAMers say that Aguirre Ferré’s new role is in direct conflict with the college’s mission.
“It’s irresponsible for her to be on the board of trustees at Miami Dade College and be in this position for the Republican Party now that they are communicating radical policies against immigrants,” Jorge Cortes of the Miami Dade College DREAMers said.
United We Dream, a national organization that also started a petition on Monday demanding that Aguirre Ferré step down, plans to continue its efforts.
“We are clear that we are not going to stop,” Julio Calderon of United We Dream said. “She will have to take one or the other, either the RNC or Miami Dade College. She cannot represent the student body, which includes some undocumented immigrants, and represent someone who wants to deport them.”
Aguirre Ferré has the support of at least one fellow trustee member. Marili Cancio defended Aguirre Ferré on América Tevé Wednesday night and asked the DREAMers to withdraw their petition.
“There is no conflict of interest with my work at the RNC and my work as a volunteer at Miami Dade College,” Aguirre Ferré said. “As a member of the board of trustees I will work with the president to ensure the best possible education for all students.”