Immigrant Teen Commits Suicide, Leaves Letters Behind
1 year ago
Joaquin Luna's letters show a teen in despair, perhaps about immigration status
Joaquin Luna Jr. was 18 years old when he took his life. What he left behind, in the form of letters and notes to loved ones, are stories and mysteries about the depressing if not oppressive life of an undocumented immigrant who found little hope in his future in America. In one of his suicide notes addressed to Jesus he wrote:
"I've realized that I have no chance in becoming a civil engineer the way I've always dreamed of here ... so I'm planning on going to you and helping you construct the new temple in heaven."
Notes like these have inspired the immigrants' rights movement in Texas, where he lived with his family in Hidalgo County, one of the poorest counties in America with over a third of its population living below the poverty level, as reported in the New York Times. He was born in Mexico, but came to America as an infant settling in the town called Mission.
He had aspirations of becoming a civil engineer or an architect -- he drew the blueprints used to build his mother's house -- and was among the top of his class at his high school. But those aspirations were dashed when after Thanksgiving he took his life by shooting himself. Before he did so, he apologized to his mother because he would never be the person he wanted to be, relatives told the New York Times.
His family told local reporters that he was depressed because he didn't think he'd be able to go to college due to Congress still failing to pass the DREAM Act, which would allow children of immigrants to attend universities. Since Luna's death, many human rights activists and college students have invoked his name and image to demand passage of the DREAM Act. Meanwhile, county sheriffs, who confiscated his letters after the deaths, said there is no established motive yet for the suicide.
Said one sheriff in the New York Times, "I'm very disappointed that some folks, and even some of our elected leaders, have exploited and politicized this young man's ill decision to take his own life, especially when we have found no evidence that points to any particular motive."
But Luna's brother Diyer Mendoza told the newspaper "We lived with him, so we know, and it doesn't matter what other people say."
No matter what the interpretation of Luna's letters, though, immigrants rights supporters say he is still an inspiration. "We can all share in that pain and that angst that he felt at that moment, because we've all been there," said Greisa Martinez, who lacks citizenship documents but is the coordinator of the Texas Dream Alliance as a senior at Texas A&M University.