DREAM Act could curb suicide nightmare


Suicide cases or the thought of suicide among undocumented youth are shocking. These are young people, who were brought to the U.S. by their parents as children, and have lived here most of their lives. Now they are being threatened with deportation.

These are real horror stories.

A couple of months ago, a 19-year-old Gustavo Rezende made national headlines for killing himself to escape deportation to Brazil. A 17-year-old undocumented student apprehended by police after making an illegal left turn behind the wheel, committed suicide in jail less than 48 hours after the arrest.

Last week Eric Balderas, a 19-year-old Harvard biology student who has lived in the U.S. since he was four, was detained at a Texas airport for hours. He now faces deportation to Mexico.

Balderas says he is the son of a single mother who left an abusive husband. She worked 12-hour days packing biscuits while raising his younger brother and sister in San Antonio, Texas.

Balderas barely remembers Mexico and considers English to be his first language. As valedictorian of his high school, Balderas had been accepted into several small liberal arts colleges but chose to attend Harvard, where he has a full scholarship.

He had previously used a Mexican passport to board planes, but recently lost it and was detained by immigration authorities while trying to travel back to Boston after visiting his mother in San Antonio.

Balderas thought he was immediately being deported and feared for his life. As he sat handcuffed he contemplated thoughts of suicide. He was detained for five hours before he was released.

He boarded a flight back to Boston, the following day, where he hopes to spend the summer conducting research at the university. He is studying molecular and cellular biology at Harvard and hopes to become a cancer researcher.

Balderas has a July 6 court date with an immigration judge, officials say.

Harvard officials immediately threw their support behind Balderas.

"Eric Balderas has already demonstrated the discipline and work ethic required for rigorous university work, and has, like so many of our undergraduates, expressed an interests in making a difference in the world," said Christine Heenan, Harvard's vice president of public affairs and communications in a statement.

We should support Heenan and others who say enough is enough, and call on lawmakers to support and pass the Dream Act.

The Dream Act is a federal bill that would allow students like Balderas and thousands of others toward a pathway to citizenship via college enrollment or military service.

A number of college president at universities such as Brown, Tufts and others support the legislation, including Harvard President Drew Faust.

Balderas and other like him are excellent students and an example of what this country needs, dedicated youth who want to help give back. Passing the Dream Act would throw a lifeline to such talented youth who are already working hard in middle and high schools throughout the country.

Sixty-five thousand undocumented youth graduate from U.S. high schools every year. These are students who are part of this country's beautiful make-up and are valuable assets to American society. Some like Balderas are the best minds this country produces, whose credentials speak for themselves. We should support and nurture such talent.

These children did not have a say when they came to the U.S. And their parents like most here only want what is best for their family's future.

How many countless suicide stories must we read about and imagine how many never make it into the news because surviving family members fear discovery and deportation?

We say not another suicide, not another life taken due to a broken immigration system.

The time is now to pass the Dream Act and Congress must have courage to support comprehensive immigration reform before it's too late.

Our children's lives depend on it.

Photo: Undocumented Harvard student Eric Balderas, 19, in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass. June. 11. Josh Reynolds/AP



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  • Another tragedy where I live. A senior in high school committed suicide because of this Dream Act, it tears me apart that its because of the dream act. They should pass the DREAM ACT and support immigrants. Many are super smart and want the best.

    Posted by boo29, 11/27/2011 8:13am (4 years ago)

  • I feel bad for the "undocumented kids" but common commit suicide? Its deportation not the end of your life. If "DREAMERS" are so strong and have overcome so much, but a deportation influences them to commit suicide. This doesn't make sense. Props for Balderas for getting into Harvard, I applied there in 2007. LIFE GOES ON and NOTHING EVER ENDS.

    Posted by Jose, 10/05/2011 9:59pm (4 years ago)

  • My wife's niece is a student as brilliant as this Balderas. Her mother, who is my wife's sister, has been patiently awaiting her turn for LEGAL immigration in the quotq queue at the U. S. Consulate at Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. My sister-in-law's wait may be as long as five more years.

    In the meantime, my niece was just selected for a place in the School of Medicine at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the famous "UNAM". She was selected as one of 163 out of a candidate group of 8,000! Would Christine Heenan be willing to grant a full scholarship to my niece based on her selection to the "UNAM" as well as based on the fact that her mother will eventually be able to immigrate LEGALLY to the U. S., after fully obeying ALL of our duly established immigration laws?

    If this Balderas kid is so deserving while being an ILLEGAL ALIEN, then my niece is more deserving. Balderas should curse his so-called parents, take his ass back to Mexico and go to the "UNAM' with the apparently excellent FREE education base that he acquired here while probably lying his way through our system as a U. S. citizen!

    The need for a so-called "DREAM Act" should point out to all sane Americans that these families who chose to ignore our duly established immigration laws are people who should not now have the balls to claim that the Federal government should "take them out of the shadows". My wife and I have made sure that our daughter has been properly educated in both the English and Spanish languages, that she is fully cognizant of her bi-cultural heritage, and that she is able to fully function in either culture. She is as comfortable running the streets of Mexico City with her cousins when she visits them there, as they are equally comfortable and fully functional when they come to visit us here in the U. S. The fact that Balderas is unable to communicate in Spanish, or that he could not survive in Mexico City is the fault of his obviously lousy, law-breaking so-called parents, and may even amount to child abuse, as is engaged in by so many of these supposedly super loving parents who even claim to be better parents than some of us U. S. citizens.

    Posted by Jimmy Smith, 06/16/2010 8:34pm (5 years ago)

  • Fellow American Citizens, we need to support the dream act and we need to do it now! These young people who did not have control in moving to America should not be considered criminals. They are Americans, regardless their status in this country, they are AMERICANS because they were raised here, and they love this country. I encourage everyone to read the pre-requisites for many immigrants that want to come to America (many countries have different requisites). Please open your eyes and see that our immigration system is broken. We must do something about it. We must support those students who just want to study and contribute to our society. We cannot deny them the opportunity to help us. Yes, to help us, because these people could be the one who saves your daughter or son because he/she is an excellent doctor. Please do not be naive and make up your mind without informing yourself in the migration history of this country, in the previous legislation and in the Dream Act as a stand alone bill.

    Posted by Grace, 06/16/2010 1:11am (5 years ago)

  • How awful to see that dedicated, hardworking, energetic young people are thinking about suicide due to the support of a Nation where they learned to love since the beginning. I cannot fathom to be in their shoes. As a teacher I have dedicated my life to teach the young so they can become better members of society. I believe that education will give them the tools to become better people. I support the Dream Act, it is time for politicians to realize that we are loosing a lot. We are loosing to see the benefits and positive outcome that these young students could bring to our communities. How long are we going to wait for these to happen? How much are we willing to loose and at what expenses? I do not want to be the person who did not speak out for those who do not have a voice and have so much potential. Fellow citizens, please inform yourself and support the Dream Act, but before making any choices, please read the bill and do not make any assumptions.

    Posted by Ellie, 06/16/2010 12:58am (5 years ago)

  • Bettybb: You obviously do not know your own country's laws.

    With him living here illegally for so long, when he leaves the United States, he is barred from returning for at least 10 years.

    Please learn your own country's laws before lecturing other people.

    Posted by John, 06/15/2010 10:28pm (5 years ago)

  • Could a little 4 year old kid who was brought here from another country illegally without knowing what is going on really be considered a criminal? Why punish those who aren't to blame.

    Posted by Edgar Sandoval, 06/15/2010 3:45am (5 years ago)

  • It is saddening to see several of my fellow student-friends getting affected by the immigration laws. To me, they are people, just like any other. Most of them I have known since middle school, and now that we are in college, it is heartbreaking to see them struggle with hurdles to get the same education that I am getting. I could bet that 99% of DREAM Act students truly value education; they are committed to their studies and are often over-achievers in academic excellence.

    I'm an American young woman and I support the DREAM Act.

    All people are human and the United States has to learn that immigrants are human. Even my own parents believed many of the myths and misguiding information provided by believed-to-be "reliable" sources such as FOX "news." Luckily, I was there to open their eyes to the truth and encouraged them to do some research on their own. Now they know the truth and they support the DREAM Act 100%.

    My friends, these students, these humans have a lot of talent and resources to offer this country. So please, support the DREAM Act.

    For those opposing the DREAM Act, I encourage you to do some research on your own and see for yourself that in the end, it is in the best interest of the United States to pass the DREAM Act.

    Posted by McKenna-AmericanYouth, 06/15/2010 12:08am (5 years ago)

  • It's sad whenever anyone commits suicide, particularly someone so young. However, the blame in the cases in question lies not with the U.S., its laws or its citizens but rather with the parent(s) who brought these young people illegally to the United States.

    The Dream Act will never pass unless it is amended to guarantee that the adult wrongdoer (usually the parent) does not benefit from any legal residency granted to the child. Most Americans would probably sympathize with a young person who was brought to the U.S. against his or her will as a minor and became "Americanized." But most Americans would not sympathize with the parent who put that child in such a position in the first place.

    If you want to curb teen suicide, the answer is not the Dream Act. The answer is to educate parents about the harm they are doing to their children when they bring them to a country illegally. I'm sorry these young people are dead, but I blame the parents for putting their children in a terrible position.

    We need to stop blaming the "harsh" immigration laws (indeed they are not harsh at all) and instead start blaming the law-breaking parents.

    Posted by Paulo, 06/14/2010 10:04pm (5 years ago)

  • I'm sorry to say but the arguments and the terrible real life event will not change the minds of those against immigrants. All they know is these undocumented people broke the law and the only way is for them to get out of their America. They don't see the 12 million undocumented as human being but as parasites that only feed of America. It doesn't matter they are top is class or attend Harvard. Even that is question, these people to them are liars, cheats and criminals in every fashion of the word. ALL UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS AND THEIR LEGAL FAMILY MEMBERS NEEDS TO CALL FOR A NATIONAL BOYCOTT OF EVERYTHING AMERICA. THEY DON'T NEED TO PROTEST ON THE STREETS. GHANDI'S SILENT PROTEST WORKED AND IT CAN WORK HERE TOO. JUST STAY HOME FROM WORK, SCHOOL, AND EVERYWHERE ELSE. THEY WILL SOON GET THE MESSAGE WHEN AMERICAN IS SHUT DOWN.

    Posted by Markg, 06/14/2010 9:57pm (5 years ago)

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