Family: Illegal-immigrant student martyred himself for Dream Act

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An illegal-immigrant student in Texas who committed suicide the day after Thanksgiving left letters saying he felt trapped by his lack of opportunities and, according to his family, he “decided to sacrifice himself for the cause.”

High school senior Joaquin Luna, 18, put on a suit, kissed family members, went into the bathroom and shot himself Friday, according to his brother, Diyer Mendoza. In the letters he left, his brother said, Luna expressed despair at the chances for the federal Dream Act, which would legalize illegal-immigrant students and young adults.

Congress blocked the legislation last year.

“He was actually doing this for the cause, mainly the Dream Act,” Mr. Mendoza said. “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.”

The case casts a dramatic spotlight on the hundreds of thousands of illegal-immigrant students who are caught between a decision their parents made when they were young and the realities of U.S. immigration law.

Immigrant rights advocates said politicians in Washington should take notice of Luna’s act.

“His death is an indictment on the failure of this administration to move an inch forward on fixing a broken immigration system,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, communications director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, which has planned a commemoration on Friday for Luna.

“I certainly don’t want to give you the impression that we’re going to use his death as a football or anything like that. We need to honor his memory, and we need to remind other Americans what this young man was about - because that’s the kind of people we’re talking about,” Mr. Cabrera said.

A local news report said the letters were turned over to the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department.

That office did not return a message Monday seeking information.

Luna was a student at Benito Juarez-Abraham Lincoln High School in Mission, Texas, where he earned A and B grades, and was a regular worshipper at a Baptist church, his brother said.

Mr. Mendoza said the rest of the family has legal status but not all are citizens. His mother went into labor while she was in Reynosa, Mexico, which meant her Luna was not a U.S. citizen.

Luna applied to colleges. Although some showed interest, Mr. Mendoza said, his brother’s legal status made him ineligible for some scholarships and meant he wouldn’t be able to work legally once his schooling was finished.

“His world just closed,” Mr. Mendoza said. “He saw that there was everything he was doing was just for nothing. He was never going to be able to succeed.”

Students in Luna’s position are among the most difficult of immigration cases. In most instances, they were brought to the U.S. by parents when they were young and have grown up in the U.S. without ties to any other country.

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