An eighteen-year-old aspiring engineer in Mission killed himself last Friday because he was worried his immigration status would keep him from accomplishing his goal of going to college, his family said. This led some immigration-reform activists to call him a martyr for the DREAM Act.
“He was actually doing this for the cause, mainly the Dream Act. He was doing this to show politicians, to show that something had to be done because there are a lot of kids out there in the same situation,” Diyre Mendoza, Luna’s brother, told the Washington Times.
Luna, an A- and B-student at Juarez-Lincoln High School, had applied to college but found his immigration status made him ineligible for some scholarships. Mendoza showed a reporter from Valley Central’s Action 4 News some architectural renderings of an apartment complex Luna had created for a school project.
The Guardian published a story detailing the last dramatic moments of Luna’s life: “Before he died, Joaquin Luna put on his best suit, white shirt and black skinny tie, the same outfit he wore every Sunday without fail to the Pan de Vida church in his home town of Mission, Texas. As his brother put it: ‘He dressed himself to go to God.’”
Mendoza told the Guardian that Luna was disheartened by the passage of Arizona and Alabama’s harsh immigration laws, and by the federal DREAM Act’s death in the Senate last year. The DREAM Act would have provided a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and were enrolled in college. “He got depressed real bad,” Mendoza said.
“His world just closed,” Mendoza told the Washington Times. “He saw that there was everything he was doing was just for nothing. He was never going to be able to succeed.”
Luna is one of an estimated 1.68 million undocumented immigrants in Texas and 10.8 million in the United States. While the rest of his family had legal status, Luna was born in Mexico when his mother went into labor there, according to the Washington Times.
None of the stories delve into the fact that Luna likely would have been eligible to receive in-state tuition under the so-called Texas DREAM Act that was signed into law by Rick Perry in 2001. That law “gives in-state college tuition to undocumented students if they have spent at least three years in a Texas high school and intend to pursue citizenship,” Patricia Kilday Hart wrote in the Houston Chronicle in September.
Immigrant advocates took note of Luna’s tragic death. “His death is an indictment on the failure of this administration to move an inch forward on fixing a broken immigration system,” Jorge-Mario Cabrera, communications director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, told the Washington Times. At the Tucson Citizen’s Hispanic Politico blog, the presidents of the National Tequila Party Movement shamed the senators who failed to support the DREAM Act. “The politicians who voted against the DREAM Act or did not show up at all to vote (to attend Christmas parties instead) have the blood of Joaquin Luna on their hands,” wrote DeeDee Garcia Blase and Shirl Mora James, co-presidents of the Latina-led political movement.
“This story makes my heart hurt,” wrote Dean Dad at Confessions of a Community College Dean. “Joaquin saw, correctly, that he was essentially confined to a lower caste through no fault of his own.” He goes on to suggest that the DREAM Act should bear Luna’s name.
Thailandia Alafitta, an undocumented graduate of Texas A&M, shares more details about Joaquin Luna’s life at Latino Politics Blog. She wrote that he was brought to the U.S. at six months old, where he was adopted by an aunt. “Unfortunately, they could not fix his legal status, and he was caught in limbo like the rest of us,” she wrote. “We all feel the way Joaquin did at some point or another, but brothers and sisters in the struggle, this is not the answer. Life for us is pretty sad at times, pretty gray, and uncertain, but something will happen for us. Because no good people ever go unnoticed, because no good fight is ever lost.”
“RIP Joaquin Luna, an 18yo kid with everything going for him except a social security number. Good work, America,” tweeted Mike Monteiro. Kimmie J felt differently, tweeting, “This is tragic, but why not work to be legal? immigration needs to be controlled to prevent a sharp spike in population.”
Valley Central’s Action 4 News segment follows below: