Miguel Aguilar made sports history when he was chosen in the first round of the Major League Soccer draft last year — “the first time that ever happened,” proudly proclaimed his hometown newspaper in Sacramento, California.
Miguel’s story is the story of the American Dream. The son of a single mom, Miguel grew up in poverty, oftentimes going hungry. But under the tutelage of a local soccer coach, Miguel thrived, earning straight A’s in school and winning a full scholarship to the University of San Francisco. His career as a professional soccer player followed soon after.
Miguel is also undocumented, having fled brutal gang violence in Mexico, as many Central American families continue to do today. He has a work permit and protection from deportation under President Obama’s DACA program, which also protects some other 700,000 young immigrants like Miguel. But leading Republican Presidential candidates, like Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, have vowed to immediately undo DACA if they win, leaving young immigrants like Miguel at risk of separation from the only country they call home.
Miguel, according to a must-read profile from The Guardian, is the first known top athlete to benefit from DACA.
Miguel’s story is a testament to the real lives at stake during this Presidential election, which has been thrown to the extreme right on immigration following xenophobic rhetoric from Donald Trump, with other Presidential candidates, like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, following along right behind him:
With the poisonous rhetoric being spewed by presidential candidates such as Donald Trump, immigration is an enormously important issue in this election year. Amid talk of walls, quotas and forced repatriation Aguilar maintains a dignified stance.
“It’s upsetting because a lot of people have just come for a better life – they come and work and they pay taxes. They help the economy and it is very disparaging. But I believe in the system and I believe in this country and I know that they will choose the right man for the job.”
As the first top-level DACA athlete Aguilar is blazing a trail for immigrants in the USA. His story sounds like a movie tagline – from the global murder capital to the capital of the free world – but it contains a powerful message.
Aguilar shines a light not just on the struggles of aspiring footballers fighting for opportunity but more vividly on the American condition in 2016.
“I feel like I am just paving the way for a lot of good players. Because I know there are a lot of good players out there and they doubt themselves, maybe because they are not American or something. Hopefully I can just show everyone out there that it is possible. You can do it. You just have to really fight for it.”