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Jose Antonio Vargas Reports: The Tragic Death Of Joaquin Luna

Jose Antonio Vargas Reports: The Tragic Death Of Joaquin Luna

Photo: Jose Antonio Vargas

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An 18-year-old in Texas took his own life fearing he didn’t have much of a future. Shortly after kissing his family members goodbye, and dressed in a suit and tie, Joaquin Luna shot himself with a small handgun the night after Thanksgiving, according to KGBT-TV Action 4 News. Letters Joaquin left behind showed he was frustrated and anxious about his immigration status. His older brother told the Rio Grande Valley station that Joaquin was counting on the passage of the federal DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legalization to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors.

“[Joaquin] didn’t (see) any other way or no other option,” his older brother, Diyre Mendoza, told Action 4 News.

The DREAM Act—now 10 years old, originally supported by both Republicans and Democrats—failed the Senate last year. It was re-introduced this past spring in the Senate without any Republican support.

Joaquin wanted to be an engineer. The 18-year-old wanted to be successful enough to care for his mother and give her a better life. He was a senior at Juarez Lincoln High in Mission, Texas, not too far from the U.S.-Mexico border, a school named after transformational presidents from both countries: Benito Juarez and Abraham Lincoln.

“Transformational,” however, is nowhere close to where we are when it comes to fully grasping and addressing illegal immigration. Luna’s tragic death inevitably serves as a painful and real backdrop to the often irresponsibly abstract and dangerously simplistic ways many politicians—including most of the GOP presidential candidates—portray immigration and undocumented immigrants. Newt Gingrich’s relatively reasonable and compassionate stance on immigration has further exposed the more radical and less humane positions of his Republican counterparts. As more details emerge surrounding Luna’s death, what pragmatic plans can the rest of the GOP field, from former Gov. Mitt Romney to Rep. Michele Bachmann, offer on immigration? What message does the GOP primary candidates—and President Obama, who have deported a record number of undocumented immigrants, separating families apart—have for young undocumented students about their futures in this country, a place they’ve grown up in, a country they call home and want to contribute to? Luna lived in Texas, which unlike most states offer in-state college tuition fee to undocumented students. Gov. Rick Perry continues to weather the storm caused by his comment that those oppose to in-state tuition break to the children of undocumented immigrants “did not have a heart.” What advise does Gov. Perry have for undocumented students who earn their degrees due to that tuition break but cannot legally work, in Texas and other states, after college?

It’s heartbreaking to read Joaquin’s story. Heartbreaking. The mind races, the soul aches. Yet another dream deferred. A young life lost.