The family of an 18-year-old undocumented high school student claims that after the failure of the Dream Act, he became despondent over his undocumented status and killed himself.
The family of 18-year-old Joaquin Luna are standing by their claim that depression over his immigration status and uncertain future drove the Mission, Texas high school student to take his life despite the lack of specific mention of the DREAM Act in any of his suicide letters.
Luna killed himself the Friday evening after Thanksgiving after dressing up in his Sunday church attire and saying goodbye to his family members. Luna left 7 letters –11 pages written on half sheets of paper left in a bible in the bathroom addressed to family, teachers, and Jesus Christ-- Luna’s oldest brother, Diyer Mendoza, told Fox News Latino. In the letters, Luna offers his high school letter jacket and truck to his siblings, asks forgiveness for failing to make them proud, and wishes classmates well.
Jesus, I’ve realized that I have no chance of becoming a Civil Engineer the way I’ve always dreamed of here…So I’m planning on going to you and helping you construct the new temple in heaven.
- Joaquin Luna
But the family point to one line in one of his letters to reiterate their belief that Luna’s suicidal motivations were directly linked to immigration status and Congress’ inability to pass the federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship to some undocumented immigrants who show good moral character and either go to a four year college or join the military:
“Dear Lord, forgive me for what I am about to do tonight,” Luna writes in the beginning of his 85-word letter. “Jesus, I’ve realized that I have no chance of becoming a Civil Engineer the way I’ve always dreamed of here…So I’m planning on going to you and helping you construct the new temple in heaven.”
Mendoza said Luna was bitterly disappointed when the federal DREAM Act failed, and although he hoped to attend college, he felt more and more hopeless that he would be legally able to work. Luna was brought into the United States from Mexico when he was six months old after being born while the family was on a trip to their native country.
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“There is no doubt in our minds that that was the main reason he did what he did. Based on what was on the letter and what was said to us by him,” Mendoza, 35, says. “I stand by it that if the DREAM Act would have passed this wouldn’t have happened.”
But not all members of the community feel comfortable linking the young man's tragic death to politics.
Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said to the Houston Chronicle he could not release the letters to the family until the investigation confirmed the case indeed was a suicide.
“What really bothers me is that there's somebody out there attempting to exploit this poor young man's decision to commit suicide and try to politicize it with failure of the DREAM Act and immigration issues,” Treviño said to the Houston newspaper.
Luna’s death has sparked a call to action among DREAM Act advocates throughout the country.
Illinois Congressman Luis Gutíerrez, known for his advocacy of immigrant rights, called Luna’s death a “gut wrenching” a call to Washington to “stop the games and provide relief to undocumented youth like Joaquin.”
“Losing a promising and caring young person like Joaquin reminds us of the urgent need to fix our badly broken immigration system,” Gutíerrez said. “Every day that this Congress refuses to act puts good people in very dangerous and potentially tragic situations.”
In California, on the same day Luna was buried, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) hosted a “New Dawn for Joaquin” ceremony which drew nearly 100 people some of which were undocumented students.
Jorge-Mario Cabrera, the Director of Communications for CHIRLA), said the vigil included three college-age dreamers who spoke about constantly feeling overburdened, alone, depressed and with suicidal feelings.
“Whether or not Joaquin addressed the DREAM Act or his immigration status in his suicide notes, our most pressing concern remains what type of help he could have received to prevent his making such a tragic decision,” Cabrera said.
That same sentiment was reiterated in New York by the NYSYLC - an organization made up of undocumented youth in the New York area. Angy Rivera, 21, a co-coordinator of the NYSYLC support group hopes undocumented youth will come out from the shadows now.
“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.
Like many undocumented students, Luna would have been the first of his family to finish high school and to attend college. According to his family, he was a model student with a bright future as an architect or engineer. 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, Marie Mendoza says.
Fox News Latino was given an essay entitled “Fulfilling a dream in waiting…” dated January 11, 2011, in which his family says Luna writes about his aspirations.
The day after Luna’s death,the principal of his high school presented his family with an acceptance letter for him from The University of Texas - Pan American.