Remembrance held for DREAM Act supporter

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Kinesiology senior Griselda Onofre and her friends hold candles in front of the Tower Monday evening in remembrance of Joaquin Luna, Jr., a high school senior who committed suicide Friday. The University Leadership Initiative, a UT organization dedicated to the passage of the Dream Act, held the event to support Luna’s family and other undocumented students around the nation.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

Journalism sophomore Hector Gaucin said many undocumented students at UT have felt the same despair as Joaquin Luna Jr., a high school senior who committed suicide Nov. 25. Luna suffered from what his family said was depression stemming from the non-passage of the DREAM Act.

Gaucin is campus relations co-director for the University Leadership Initiative, a campus organization dedicated to promoting the passage of the DREAM Act, a document aiming to help provide amnesty to undocumented students. The organization held a candlelight vigil at the Tower on Monday in support of Luna. At the vigil, a crowd of 30 people sang songs of support, said prayers and held signs that said, “Yo soy Joaquin. We are Joaquin.”

“In some way, most of us are Joaquin,” Gaucin said. “We have all faced and had hard times through high school or college. This is to show high school or college dreamers that there is a support system here for them.”

Clinical professor of law Barbara Hines said current immigration laws allow students such as Luna to acquire an education but leave them without a career path in their field of study as they would be considered illegal workers. She said the world would be different with the passage of the DREAM Act, a law that would create a road to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who complete two years of service in the military or at least two years at a four-year institution of higher learning.

“It would be a fundamental and important change,” Hines said. “Many DREAM students have already graduated. We would have more nurses and engineers. It would be a benefit not only to the students but to our country.”

Feelings of isolation are something Hines said she often sees in her work with undocumented students.

“For some of them, it’s very hopeless,” Hines said. “I have great admiration for them to carry on.”

Journalism sophomore Juana Guzman, campus relations co-director for the University Leadership Initiative, said undocumented students like herself were hard-hit by the death of the aspiring engineer whose family received notice of his acceptance to UT-Pan American the same day as his funeral on Dec. 1.

“As part of ULI, we focus on reaching out to undocumented students,” Guzman said. “The fact that he was an undocumented student hit us very hard, but to know his hopelessness doubled that pain. We want everyone to know that we are not alone.”

Spanish sophomore Jonathan Hernandez said he and his undocumented classmates had to keep fighting for the DREAM Act although they face challenges.

“Let’s not give up,” Hernandez said. “Let’s not give up. Let’s take that hope and make it a reality. There are so many things to fight for — your friends, your family, your own dreams. Let’s keep fighting.”

Journalism freshman Jonathan Espinoza said stories like Luna’s are what made him come to the vigil and support the DREAM Act, although he is a legal citizen.

“It’s crazy as I read through history how people have shed blood and have been through high water to get here,” Espinoza said. “Years from now, I want to tell my children I was here and tell them I was fighting for equality and what’s right.”

Printed on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 as: Students dismayed by DREAM rejection