While most families are gearing up for the holidays, a family in Texas is planning a funeral, after an 18-year-old committed suicide the day after Thanksgiving. Joaquin Luna took his life, his family claims, because his aspiration to study engineering was dashed after Congress' failure to pass the DREAM Act.
Luna was brought to the United States when he was six months old. He was undocumented, and the lack of legal status weighed heavily on him, his oldest brother, Dire Mendoza, told Fox News Latino.
“His world just closed. He took the decision and decided to do this – to sacrifice himself,” Mendoza said. “I think he did it to have politicians have more heart, and give other kids the opportunity he thought he was never given. If this DREAM Act would have passed this would have never have happened."
Mendoza, 35, says Luna dressed up on Friday night and put on his tie as if he was going to church. He made his rounds through the house, saying goodbye to his family members heading to bed.
His family thought nothing of it, Mendoza said.
That’s when Marie Mendoza, Luna’s cousin, says Luna told his older brother, Carlos, 29, “he could become something in life, but he would never become anything in life because of his status.”
Moments later, Luna was found dead in the bathtub of his home after an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Investigators from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department declined to comment because the investigation was ongoing.
Luna’s brother, Mendoza tells Fox News Latino that Luna left a suicide letter, which is in police custody. The family has not read it.
If this DREAM Act would have passed this would have never have happened.
- Dire Mendoza, Luna's Older Brother
Luna was a model student with a bright future as an architect or engineer, his family recalled. The 18-year-old had designed his family’s home from the very first blueprints to the last nail in their home.
“Everything in that house – his hands worked on it,” Luna’s cousin, Mendoza says.
Family and friends described Luna as a church-loving person who played guitar in the church choir, loved helping neighbors with their landscaping, and someone who always had a smile on his face. He was never caught up in fights or did drugs, they added, and someone who never in trouble with the law.
But the road seemed hopeless to him with legal status.
“He thought that even if he was going to go to college he was probably still not going to be able to get a job,” Mendoza, Luna’s brother, says. “To him everything that he was doing was just going to be for nothing because at the end of the road he was never going to be given the chance to work."
Fox News Latino obtained an essay entitled “Fulfilling a dream in waiting…” dated January 11, 2011, in which his family says Luna writes about his aspiring goals.
Luna’s family hopes that his death will re-energize a push for the passage of the DREAM Act – a controversial bill that allows undocumented students who come to the United States before age 16 to become legal residents after five years by completing higher education or joining the military service. The legislation failed to pass earlier this year.
DREAM Act activists, such as the Coalition of Immigration Rights in Los Angeles, and the New York State Youth Leadership Council, are pointing to Luna's death as an example of the toll that inaction is taking on undocumented students.
“His death is an indictment on this administration's lack of courage to fix our broken immigration system. It should not take any more deaths for us to realize we are doing an injustice,” Jorge Mario Cabrera, Diyrector of communications of CHIRLA, said. “At the risk of mixing politics with personal tragedy, we will mourn Joaquin's death. At the same time we will call for the administration to take action.”
CHIRLA is planning a gathering for Friday at 6 a.m. called “The New Dawn for Joaquin.”
Meanwhile, the NYSYLC, an organization made up of undocumented youth in the New York area, is offering their condolences to the family. Their membership has upward of 500 undocumented immigrants, 10 core members, and four staff members dedicated to offering support from dealing with parents, school and relationships as an undocumented immigrant so that deaths like Luna’s never happen.
“We are heartbroken. Our heart goes out to Joaquin and his family,” said Angy Rivera, 21, a co-coordinator of the NYSYLC support group, which meets every other week to talk about the emotional stress of growing up undocumented.
Rivera says there are very few organizations that concentrate on the emotional toll immigration status has on young people.
“I hope that this is a wake-up call for youth who feel the same way or feel alone to find the help they need and contact an organization or something,” Rivera says.
As for Luna’s three remaining brothers, two sisters, mother, and father, the time for remembering and healing has started in the very home designed by their beloved Luna.
“It’s something that is always going to be here,” Mendoza says. “It’s always going to be something to remind us of his talent.”
Bryan Llenas currently serves as a New York-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC) and a reporter for Fox News Latino (FNL). Click here for more information on Bryan Llenas. Follow him on Twitter @BryanLlenas.