By now, you’ve heard of Joaquin Luna, an 18 year-old DREAMer who committed suicide because he feared his immigration status would continue to be a barrier to a better life–for himself and for his family.
To call Joaquin’s suicide tragic just is not enough. One might say that he was indeed a victim of bullying. Beyond a dormant Congress and a President who has not used any significant political capital to push for comprehensive immigration reform, instead stepping up enforcement efforts to the tune of over 1 million deportations, the series of Republican presidential debates has made a mockery of immigrants and immigration reform.
Some candidates have resorted to bullying, like Herman Cain who joked about electrifying the border fence. Rick Perry has exhibited a lack of a backbone by supporting the Texas DREAM Act without pushing for some sort of legalization, and now turning toward a more punitive approach on the issue–even consorting with Joe Arpaio. Mitt Romney has flipped himself about on the issue in order to appease the right-wing. The rest of the list has basically made themselves out to be members of their neighborhood militia on the issue.
If this rhetoric scares multi-generation American Latinos who fear merely being profiled without much consequence, can you imagine what it does to an innocent undocumented kid who is already living in fear?
I guess we don’t have to imagine it anymore.
From the beginnings of this effort for comprehensive immigration reform, there has been a debate among activists regarding the type of lobbying approach to take to convince politicians and people to side with “us”. Arguing from an economic standpoint, one can point out many positives. And from a human standpoint, one can argue about inhumane treatment of people on so many levels. But when something like this happens, one isn’t left with much to argue.
Obviously, this is not the time to give up; if anything, it is a time to re-commit to and re-engage on the issue.
Recently, the State Democratic Executive Committee voted to place a referendum on the 2012 Texas Democratic Primary ballot in support of the DREAM Act. This is an opportunity to send a message throughout the country that the DREAM Act would be good for Texas and America. And it is an opportunity to engage and re-engage Democratic Texans on the issue. And it is an opportunity to get involved in the Democratic Party to ensure the Party and its elected officials are held accountable on the issue.
Making a political statement based on such a tragic circumstance is a risk for me. But the reason for Joaquin’s demise is a very political circumstance fraught with policy and rhetoric based on political expediency and fear mongering. So, a statement must be made through the political process at every opportunity. In Texas, the Primary referendum on DREAM is the next opportunity.
To Joaquin’s family, my most sincere condolences, as well as my most sincere thanks for being as public as they have been about their tragedy and the reasons behind it.
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