Photo: Joaquin Luna
Young people in favor of the DREAM Act, families affected by deportations and pro-immigrant activists held a vigil here Friday in memory of an undocumented student in Texas who committed suicide last week.
Joaquin Luna, an 18-year-old honor student at Juarez-Lincoln High School in Mission, Texas, shot himself the day after Thanksgiving.
His family said Luna was suffering from depression that was only made worse by the letters of acceptance he received from several universities where he could never go because of his undocumented status and lack of money.
The activists who paid homage this morning to the student before a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Olvera Street in Los Angeles carried banners with his photo and the words “Joaquin’s DREAM lives.”
“Joaquin came to the U.S. as a 6-month-old baby and had done what all of us ask of immigrants to do, play by the rules,” Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said in a statement.
In a tribute entitled “A New Dawn for Joaquin” that 30 people attended, a graduation diploma from a nameless university was also presented and a message recorded by his mother and brother was played.
“Joaquin was loved by everyone. He was all about school, church, and my mom. He was an extraordinary brother, talented, never got in trouble with the police,” older brother Diyer Mendoza said.
The pro-reform activists also presented testimony by other young Hispanics suffering depression because of their lack of legal-immigrant status.
“Congress’ failure to pass the federal DREAM Act in December 2010 was a blow to Joaquin’s hopeful spirit, according to all who knew him,” CHIRLA’s Salas said, calling the student’s death “a tragedy and a direct indictment on the U.S. government’s failure to deal humanely, justly, and practically, with an immigration maelstrom threatening to sink the very values we hold dear.”
First proposed in 2001 by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students who entered the United States before the age of 16, graduate from a U.S. high school and either enroll in college or enlist in the Armed Forces.
The measure passed the then-Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in late 2010, but fell five votes short in the Senate.