An Unnamed Source Calls Teen’s Motivation for Suicide into Question

Joaquin Luna’s family said he killed himself last week out of despair over his immigration status, but others say the suicide was unrelated to that. 
Fri December 2, 2011 2:39 am
Screenshot | Valley Central’s Action 4 News

Bloggers have posted a heartbreaking essay from Joaquin Luna, the Mission teen whose family said he killed himself last week out of despair over his immigration status. But other reports say that the suicide was unrelated to that issue.

In the essay, posted at Tuscon Citizen ’s Hispanic Politico blog, Luna detailed the struggles he faced as the child of migrant farm workers. “The toughest job I have ever done was picking asparagus off the fields, in Big Rapids, MI. I still remember the hot sun and the sunburns my family and I would acquire when picking the asparagus the wrong way. That summer I struggled, it seemed like it was never coming to an end,” he wrote.

The nature of his family’s work forced Luna to change schools often, leading to trouble transferring into the same classes and collecting all the necessary credits. But he writes of his determination to graduate in the top quarter of his high school class and become the first person in his family to graduate from college. “I want to demonstrate to them that all that agricultural work done and all those days of giving their best would have been worth it,” he wrote. The essay appears to have been written for a college or scholarship application.

Valley Central’s Action 4 News, the area’s CBS affiliate, broke the story of the suicide on Saturday, speaking to Luna’s family about Luna’s motivations.

But a follow-up segment that aired Tuesday night called those details into question, citing an unnamed source who said that Luna mentioned neither the DREAM Act nor his immigration status in the eight or nine letters he left to his friends and family. Luna’s family still maintains “that he committed suicide because he feared his future as an undocumented immigrant.”

Writing at the Texas Observer , Cindy Casares notes both the right and left have adopted Luna as a symbol. “Either he is a ‘Mathew Shepherd for the Immigration Reform movement’ or he is ‘one less illegal drain on the system,’” she writes.

At the Texas Tribune , Julian Aguilar chronicles how, less than a week after Luna’s suicide, advocacy groups, including the University Leadership Initiative, United We Dream, and the Texas Dream Alliance, are rallying around the tragedy.

The groups plan to fan out around “historically lower-income and underserved areas of the border” around the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, and Zapata to raise awareness about opportunities after high school, but DREAM Act advocates who are not citizens have had a hard time traveling to that area because of the presence of border patrol, Aguilar writes.

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