A Dream Deferred, In Memory of Joaquin Luna

November 29, 2011

Now and then in the history of this great nation its citizens are forced to face a choice between the country that we were, the country that we are, and the country which we seek to be.  An American phantasm has re-appeared to reflect the injustice and inhumanity of an immigration system that leaves America broken

            The sound of the shot was loud and acute.  Although it could have been from the violent and gruesome games that children play now a day, it was surely an irregular and deafening sound exploding in the middle of a quiet home one night after thanksgiving.  He ran into the restroom where his little brother walked into only minutes after kissing his parents.  He dragged his little brother out of the restroom into the kitchen, blood dripping from his little brother’s suit and tie unto the kitchen floor. What happens to a dream deferred?

Joaquin Luna was 18 years old; a senior at Juarez Lincoln High in Mission, Texas.  He left letters behind, like so many youth do after committing suicide.  Some of them write about being bullied for being gay, some of them write about something that happened to them and were too ashamed to live with.  Some ask for forgiveness, and others just ask questions.  What happens to the dreamer?

Now we must stop a Moral Race to the Bottom.  An “other countries treat them worse” approach to immigration reform is repugnant to the values that make this country the best in the world.  Where is America the moral leader?  We cannot lead on a moral stage when our streets are filled with terror and the ugly separation of families.  We cannot be great when we decide to do what is easiest instead of what is right

            Joaquin Luna believed it was better dead than to be undocumented.  Yes, he wrote about the failure of the Dream Act and the bleak opportunities he had of continuing his education.  I will not, however, reduce his death to a mere political jab against those that voted against the Dream Act in 2010.  Joaquin Lunas’ death, like the death of many other Dreamers that have committed suicide, speaks to an issue bigger than the Dream Act.

Even in the face of record-breaking deportations by the Obama Administration, expansion of the failed (In) Secure Communities Program and Arizona copy-cat legislation across the nation, it wasn’t deportation that Joaquin feared.  “He was saying he was going to do this because he wasn’t going to be able to continue with his college.”  Even though Texas is considered a moderately friendly state towards immigrant youth (providing in-state tuition), Joaquin’s greatest fear was being unable to achieve his dream of being an engineer.

Our families have seen things that might break you, rattle and make you, wonder why the heck this is called the land of opportunity, the land of the free and the home of the brave.  It is us.  Is the vision that we paint, the question that we pose, of the Nation that we are and the nation that we could be.

            For all Dreamers that have contemplated suicide:  even though I don’t know you, I love you.  Even though I don’t ride in the same car or go to the same school, I feel your fear.  Even though we sleep in different streets, we have a common dream.  Even though you are not here with me, you are not alone.  We are not alone.  I too, am Joaquin.

Our minds have felt beat and sore, but our soul keeps commanding it off the floor and says keep marching on, keep dreaming, keep demanding a chance for more, keep sailing these storms for shore.      

 I could have been that big brother, holding my sister in my arms.  We have to give them hope.  If you’re a sister, if you’re a friend, if you’re a pastor, if you’re a teacher, we have to give them hope.  I fight because I know if I fight I will not be alone.  And when I fight I fight with hope, because with hope I know we can win.

In memory of Joaquin and all the Dreamers no longer with us:  Give them hope, give them love, these are still benefits that do not require a 9-digit number.

For more information on Joaquin Luna, CLICK HERE

For more information about the Dream Act and the vigil for Joaquin and Dreamers organized by the Arizona Dream Act Coalition being held Friday December 2nd, 2011, check out — http://www.theadac.org

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