Senator Dick Durbin paid tribute to Joaquin Luna on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, urging his fellow senators to pass the DREAM Act to prevent thousands like Luna from languishing in “hopelessness and despair.”
Luna, an eighteen-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mission, shot himself the day after Thanksgiving out of despair over his immigration status, his family said. Durbin, Senate majority whip and chief proponent of the DREAM Act, held up a poster with Luna’s picture, and spent seven minutes on the floor telling the story of the Juarez-Lincoln High student, who played guitar in his church choir, hoped to become an engineer, and had been accepted by Rice University and Texas A&M. (To obtain citizenship, the DREAM Act requires students to graduate from college or serve two years in the military.)
In the absence of a DREAM Act, “we are saying to tens of thousands like Joaquin Luna that there is no place for you in America because your parents brought you here when you were a child. Therefore, you are forever banished from being part of America’s future. That is a cruel outcome and one that we shouldn’t accept as Americans,” Durbin said. “Sadly, Joaquin Luna will not be part of America’s future, but his story I hope will inspire others to step up and speak up for those who are promoting the DREAM Act.”
New Yorker and immigration reform advocate Rachel LaBruyere was moved by Durbin’s speech, tweeting “want to hug Papa Durbin. lots. #dreamact #RIPJoaquin.” Non-profit manager Glen Peterson, writing at Loving the Stranger, hoped for a kinder future. “Someday, we will do better as a country on the issue of immigration,” Peterson wrote.
But a controversy lingers over Luna’s exact motivation for taking his own life. Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño told Lynn Brezosky of the San Antonio Express-News that Luna’s suicide notes did not mention the DREAM Act and condemned the politicization of his death. “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.
Luna’s family maintains he was crushed by the DREAM Act’s failure and “painfully aware” that he wouldn’t be able to work in his chosen field if he did get a degree, Brezosky reported.
National Tequila Party obtained Luna’s suicide note from his family. In the note, which the Tuscon Sun’s Hispanic Politico blog posted in full, Luna alludes to his despair over his future prospects:
Dear Lord forgive me for what I am about to do tonight. I know it has to be done because I have no point of existence in this cruel world. There are many problems going among teenagers these days and I am fearful to fall in any temptation. Jesus, I realize I have no chance of becoming a civil engineer the way I always dreamed of here. So I am planning in going to you and helping you construct the new Temple in Heaven.