Monday, 12 December 2011

In US, undocumented teen suicide sparks conservative backlash

By Paul Canning

The suicide of an undocumented Texan teen has sparked a backlash from American conservatives.

Last month 18-year-old Joaquin Luna Jr killed himself and left notes. His family says he had indicated that he was in despair at the failure of the DREAM Act, which would have offered him a path to becoming an engineer. They say that the notes explain the reasons for his despair.

Luna Jr rang his siblings before he shot himself. He told his half-brother Carlos Mendoza, 29, who lives across the street:

"My road is finished here. I'm going away."

Mendoza ran to him and broke down a bathroom door, but he was too late.

His mother said he told her:

"I'm never going to be the person I wanted to be. I'm never going to fulfill my dreams."

The notes were left in a bible taken by investigators before the family had seen them.

Following the funeral, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas) told Congress that Luna "took his life because he believed that he would never be able to fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer, earning his citizenship and leading a full and prosperous life in America."

Students at the University of Texas produced teeshirts and posters saying “I am Joaquin.” This echoed a famous Chicano-movement poem of the 1960s.

But the Hidalgo County sheriff, Guadalupe Treviño, said that Mr. Luna’s death had been ruled a suicide, but that investigators had not established a motive.

Sheriff Treviño said:

“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."

“Nobody knows why he did it. Only he knows for sure why he did what he did.”

Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC), called the family's claim on Luna's motivation "a hoax by desperate and unscrupulous illegal immigrant invasion supporters." One ALIPAC administrator 'Jean' wrote of Luna Jr's death:

"The latest pro-amnesty salvo comes in the form of an act of cowardice ... The boy made a bigger mistake when he chose suicide over hard work."

Right-wing website Newsbusters claimed that 'CNN Helps Politicize Tragic Teen 'Dream Act Suicide''.
ALIPAC cited an investigator who told a local news station before they were released to the family that the bible notes did not mention either the DREAM Act or Luna Jr.'s undocumented status. But half-brother Diyer Mendoza says he was told of the letters contents by the investigation in the days after the suicide and says:

"I know he did it because of his legal status. I lived with him; I shared time with him. I know what I know."

The letters have now been released to the family and one note, which the sheriff's office made public, does say:

"I have realized that I have no chance in becoming a civil engineer the way I have always dreamed of here."

Says Diyer Mendoza:

“Every time he would put in an application, the first thing that would pop up was ‘Are you a U.S. citizen?’ No. ‘Resident?’ No. ‘Social Security number?’ No. It was all just mounting and mounting on top of him. I truly believe that if that Dream Act would have already passed, he would still be here today.”

Richard Hartwell, founder of the web site Action Dream Team, which provides a forum for 'Dreamers', said Luna’s fears of failing have much merit.

"I can show you people that have multiple degrees in science that are working as interpreters because they can’t work in their field because they don’t have nine numbers," Harwell said.

By not passing the DREAM Act, Hartwell said the government is pushing talent and an economic boost elsewhere.

"Many of these young people are actually going to Canada, where with a degree and a job offer, Canada will welcome you," Hartwell said.

Marie-Theresa Hernández wrote on Dream Act Texas:

"How many DREAMers see things like the sign proudly displayed at the front door of the Soup Plantation near Upland California that says "WE USE E-VERIFY" (in other words we call ICE on undocumented immigrants) - or the video showing Congressman Mo Brooks from Alabama saying he will do everything but shoot undocumented immigrants. What can these terrible things do to a young impressionable mind?"

The DREAM Act was blocked in the Senate in 2010 despite having a majority.

Homeland Security Department recently issued a memo saying that those who would have qualified for the Dream Act should be low on the priority list for deportation. It also listed other factors, such as caring for a family, that would lower the risk of deportation.

However Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) says that despite a supposed focus on deporting criminals, most of those targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are not criminals.
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