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Family says illegal student killed himself over fears he'd never go to college

By Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
updated 4:17 PM EST, Tue November 29, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Joaquin Luna, 18, committed suicide over fears he'd never go to college, his family says
  • Letters he left behind reveal his fears about being in the country illegally, his brother says
  • Dream Act is a divisive issue in the U.S. Congress

(CNN) -- Joaquin Luna was only 18. The senior at Juarez Lincoln High School in Mission, Texas, dreamed of going to college. But since he was in the country illegally, that was nearly impossible.

Luna was quickly losing hope of ever going to college, his family says. The Friday after Thanksgiving, Luna put on a suit, kissed his family members, went into the bathroom and shot himself in the head, according to family members.

"He didn't see no other way or no other option," his brother Diyra Mendoza told CNN affiliate KGBT.

Mendoza found the body after hearing the gunshot.

"As soon as I pulled him out to the kitchen, I could see the bullet hole and there was no movement, no signs of anything," Mendoza said. "He was gone."

Mendoza says the letters his brother left behind reveal his fears about being in the country illegally. He also was frustrated because the Dream Act -- an initiative that would legalize young immigrants who have been in the country for more than five years if they attend college or serve in the military -- never passed.

It's estimated that the Dream Act would benefit about 2 million young people. It failed by five votes in the Senate last December. A new push by Democrats in Congress this year also didn't go far.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, who has been pushing for the measure for a decade, testified at a congressional hearing in June. "The Dream Act would make America a stronger country by giving these talented immigrants the chance to fulfill their potential." Durbin said.

But Republican lawmakers call the bill "blanket amnesty" and have strongly opposed it. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, calls it "a band-aid and maybe worse, it would provide an incentive for future illegal immigration."

The Dream Act was also a hot-potato issue in the November 22 CNN debate of Republican presidential candidates. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spoke in favor of the Dream Act. "I don't see any reason to punish somebody who came here at 3 years of age, but who wants to serve the United States of America," Gingrich said.

Mitt Romney agreed with Gingrich saying the he "would staple a green card to the diploma of anybody who's got a degree of math, science, master's degree, Ph.D. We want those brains in our country."

But Michele Bachmann denounced it, warning the measure would "offer taxpayer-subsidized benefits to illegal aliens. We need to move away from magnets not offer more."

Back in Texas, Mendoza is thinking of other young immigrants like his brother. "It's like all these kids that are here. They're all dependent on that Dream Act to keep on studying," Mendoza said.

But with a Congress unable to reach a compromise to reduce the deficit and presidential elections less than a year away, the chances of any immigration bill being passed seem very unlikely.

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