Joaquin Luna, Jr. felt the same pressures many young Americans do when facing high school graduation and college applications — with one additional, not-so-typical obstacle: He wasn’t an American citizen.
Last month, weighed down with personal challenges and ongoing depression, the high school student took his own life. Did his status as an illegal immigrant fuel Luna’s sense of hopelessness? His family suggests as much. Immigration rights advocates fear as much. We may never know the true tipping point in Luna’s struggle, but his death is sparking an urgent and open dialogue about how immigration laws affect young people today.
Jose Antonio Vargas’s Define American project reveals that for many citizens, our prime signs of national identity boil down to ideals, ethos and approach to opportunity. The law, however, isn’t so flexible. Things aren’t so simple for the 65,000 youth who, like Vargas and Luna, were brought to this country as children and encouraged to build lives, make plans and pursue the American dream — only to learn that their academic and career options are drastically limited due to immigration status. The Dream Act would provide a way for college or military-bound teens to initiate a plan for citizenship, but the Act has yet to pass. Advocates can help by pressuring legislators to make it happen; we can all do our part by showing support for youth like Luna, people who might be silently suffering with their secret, might be outwardly vocal with their conflict or might just need to know that the American dream is worth fighting for.
Our deep condolences go out to the Luna family. We urge you to find help immediately if you or someone you know can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It does get better. Let someone help show you how.
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