No one knows for sure what was going through the head of 18-year-old Joaquin Luna Jr. when he committed suicide last month. His family told reporters they suspect he was motivated by despair over the limitations posed by his status as an undocumented immigrant. His suicide note (which the family had not yet seen when they made their initial comments to the press), included no reference to immigration status – though in a letter addressed to Jesus Christ, Luna reportedly asked for forgiveness and 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.”
Luna’s half-brother, Diyer Mendoza, 35, told reporters that Luna, who was an infant when his parents brought him from Mexico to the United States, was in despair over the obstacles to education and employment his immigration status posed. “We lived with him, so we know, and it doesn’t matter what other people say,” he said. “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.”
Luna’s suicide was rapidly politicized. Seizing on his family’s reports that he was despondent over his immigration status, some immigrants’ rights advocates described Luna a casualty of Congress’ repeated failure to pass the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children.
When it came out that his final writings contained no explicit mention of his immigration status, the anti-immigrant lobby attacked not only its political opponents, but Luna’s family itself.
“[O]h these open borders flakes are BUSTED! They faked the reason for this kid's suicide, if it even was a suicide,” wrote William Gheen, head of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) head. Gheen, readers may recall, earlier this year suggested that “illegal and violent” “extra political activities” might be the only way to save “white America” from “Dictator Barack Obama.”
Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigrant hate group whose Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) devised the language for the mean-spirited immigration enforcement laws in Arizona and Alabama, was even more vicious.
“Even opponents of the DREAM Act empathize with the situation that Luna and many like him find themselves,” he wrote on FAIR’s blog early this month. “Whenever anyone takes his own life, questions need to be asked. In this case the first question must be posed to his parents: Mr. & Mrs. Luna, wasn’t it obvious to you that when you consciously broke the law and brought your young son to this country illegally that you were creating an untenable situation for him?”
The fact is that while no one but Luna can say what role, if any, his immigration status played in his decision to commit suicide, there’s no reason to think that his family members lied when they said he was depressed over the limitations he faced because of it. What matters ultimately is that his family lost a son – and no circumstance, political motive, or evidence can justify nativist groups’ attack on the Lunas in their time of deepest sorrow.