When hope is lost, some immigrants consider or commit suicide

When hope is lost, some immigrants consider or commit suicide

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin intervened to help Harvard University student Eric Balderas, who was facing deportation to Mexico, and now will be allowed to stay in the United States at least temporarily.

But there is something that Balderas told Boston Globe reporter Maria Sacchetti that really alarmed me. He told the reporter that his situation made him feel suicidal.

Balderas didn't choose to be undocumented. His parents brought him here when he was 4. If sent back to Mexico, it would be like going to a foreign country. And he would lose his chance for a Harvard education.

This must conjure fear, desperation and suicidal thoughts.

Immigrants come here with hopes for a better future and when those hopes are lost it is a tragedy.

There was a powerful story in the Chicago Tribune last week by Oscar Avila about an undocumented man from El Salvador, Jose Armando Ramos, who committed suicide.

He came to this country to work. But he became ill, accrued thousands in medical bills and was not able to work.

He was found hanged in his South Chicago apartment. The Salvadoran government asked for donations to cover expenses to send him back home.

Also, last month a young Brazilian man, Gustavo Rezende, 19, who was undocumented, also killed himself by hanging himself from a tree in the woods in Marlborough, Mass. Family and friends told the Boston Globe that he was despondent over his immigration status.

"He always said, 'I've been here 11 years and I have no rights. . . . I have no right to a driver's license, no right to continue studying, I have no rights to anything,'''  his mother told the Boston Globe.

Lost in all the rhetoric over immigration are the hopes and fears of those who are undocumented. The emotional  struggles of the students uncertain of their futures and the working immigrants are not that different.

Perhaps they worry for their families, worry how they will support themselves, worry if they have a future at all.

Perhaps Ramos was too ashamed to go home ill and a failure. We cannot know for certain why Ramos and Rezende killed themselves.

We can be thankful that Balderas' situation did not become so desperate.

But these stories should remind us that there are real people whose lives are at stake in this immigration debate.

I know that I cannot stand to see another immigrant killed by his own hands or worse by the acts of hate that have taken the lives of Luis Ramirez of Pennsylvania, Marcelo Lucero of Long Island and killed just a few weeks ago in Arizona, Juan Varela.

Varela was shot by a neighbor who allegedly shouted, "Hurry up and go back to Mexico or you're gonna die," according to the Arizona Republic. Varela was not an immigrant but third-generation and a U.S. citizen.

Our government has to work to find real solutions, not pass empty laws like the ones in Arizona or Nebraska that do nothing to seriously address the problem but only serve as vehicles to racially profile Hispanics. They could start by passing the DREAM Act that would benefit children brought here by their parents who complete two years of college or military service.

We live in a country where we all profit from the blood, sweat and tears of the undocumented. Yet too many people look the other way, ignore that these are real people with real problems.

This week I was listening to a radio interview with the daughters of the late civil rights lawyer, William Kunstler. They have made a film about their famous father.

After Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was killed, Kunstler said, "I killed him. I killed him."

Obviously Kunstler didn't kill Hampton, he was killed in a police raid. But his daughters explained that their father felt that we were collectively responsible.

"Unless you are doing something against it, you are participating in it," his daughter Emily told The New Yorker.

I will borrow this sentiment from Kunstler. "I killed Jose Armando Ramos. I killed Gustavo Rezende."

We are all responsible. We must all speak out.


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  • I am against illegal immigration, but at the same time I am feeling bad of the children of those illegals. Why should those children pay for the sins of their fathers. I don't think they should just be citizens, the ones that are brought here, I think they should either serve or do something to earn it, but they should definitely be able to. The parents or adults should never get it unless they leave and return the right way, else stay work, never get their citizenship or tax returns as payment for coming illegally. See what I mean check out this story


  • I also see a lot of depression among young undocumented immigrants who have gone through the educational system and now find that their options for the America Dream are shut down. Now, documented, undocumented and citizens of Latino descent are undera a constant barrage of hate. I agree that we all need to support immigration reform and to take a stand and bring the discourse to a more reasonable debate. I tell these young people that I fight and will continue to fight for reform that will include them. Both parties need to be pushed and prodded to make this happen.

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