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Miguel Aguilar is at risk with a Trump administration


MLS: D.C. United at LA Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Update: The Department of Homeland Security recently announced a series of guidelines detailing how the Trump administration plans to enforce stricter immigration laws.

The good news? The Trump White House plans to leave the DACA program alone, for now. Theoretically, Miguel Aguilar is out of danger. However, the decision is only a mixed victory for Aguilar, who still has no path to citizenship and now must grapple with a new world where his family could be targeted for deportation.

The story of Miguel Aguilar is one of hard work and resilience, and ultimately a tale as American as apple pie.

Born just across the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez, Aguilar endured a dangerous childhood: A violent drug war between rival cartels had transformed Juarez into the murder capital of the world. When his teenage sister was almost taken hostage in a failed kidnapping attempt, his family fled the area and escaped to Northern California.

Aguilar struggled with life domestically in rural Sacramento. Unable to speak English at first, the lingering fear of deportation was always in the back of the mind of an often isolated youngster. However despite growing up in America as a undocumented immigrant, his family managed to make ends meet long enough for Aguilar to find his footing on the soccer field, and eventually he earned a work permit and legal status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act, or DACA.

The gifted winger took full advantage of his newfound freedom, going on to star at the University of San Francisco and graduating early with a degree in finance and a 3.7 GPA before being drafted 17th overall by D.C. United in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. The once lonely outcast had become the first DACA recipient to become a professional athlete, a remarkable achievement.

A promising rookie year with D.C. United followed, punctuated by a game-winner vs. Arabe Unido in the CONCACAF Champions League. In December, Aguilar’s rights were traded to the LA Galaxy, where he stands a good chance of earning a contract with the club after a strong preseason trial.

However, Aguilar is now potentially facing a new danger: Politics.

When Donald Trump seized the 2016 Presidential Election, tensions in the immigrant communities were high, and with good reason: Among other promises, Trump had vowed on the campaign trail to repeal President Obama’s executive order which protects 750,000 DREAMers from deportation.

That hasn’t happened. However, the arrest last week of 23-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina, a DACA recipient with no criminal record, has gotten a lot of attention.

It’s not clear whether Ramirez’ arrest and the revocation of his work permit reflect a new ICE policy toward DACA recipients, or if this is just an isolated case. But in the context of the broader uncertainty that DACA recipients are feeling under the Trump administration, and the widespread panic caused by nationwide immigration raids last week, the case has gotten a lot of public attention very quickly. How it gets resolved will send a strong message about how safe “DACAmented” immigrants really are under Trump.

As the situation develops, conflicting reports are emerging: ICE claims Ramirez is a self-admitted gang member, which potentially gives the government legal authorization to strip him of his DACA privileges. Ramirez’s lawyers argue the gang charge is bogus, citing inconsistent paperwork.

Either way, there are no guarantees Aguilar will be safe: He might not be in immediate danger, but there’s no doubting the talented winger is now vulnerable. And of course, the possibly still exists DACA could be scrapped altogether.

These new developments are certainly not fair to Aguilar, who is facing an unwanted distraction many of us could never imagine, at a time when he should be concentrating 100% on his football: Remember, Aguilar is on trial and must earn a contract offer, the amount of which depends in part on his preseason performances.

You get a better idea of Aguilar’s struggles listening to the man himself, who to his day carries his Mexican passport and special work permit everywhere he goes.

“I’ve always had to ‘deal’ with it. So I am used to it and have learned to just kind of embrace it,” he went on. “Instead of have it hinder me I try to use it to my advantage. I wouldn’t say I get angry, but upset at times, just certain things I wish I could do or certain things I wish I didn’t have to do or go through. It is what it is, I can’t do anything about that but just keep moving forward.”

Those are the words of a brave soul making the best of a difficult situation. It seems unconscionable that a man of Aguilar’s courage could be deemed unworthy of the American dream. At a time when the global game in growing by leaps and bounds in the States, the last thing we ought to be doing is discouraging talented individuals from plying their trade here.

But with headlines like this, is it surprising the football world has taken notice?

As Grant Wahl reported, a Designated Player signing of Muslim faith recently backed out of a deal to join MLS, acknowledging that President Trump’s controversial executive order barring travel from seven Muslim-majority nations was a contributing factor. That’s not good.

So now the league has a situation where foreign signings are thinking twice about playing in America, the Land of the Free, out of fear of unfair treatment? Since when did we become Russia?

The threat is real for players abroad as well as Americans such as Aguilar here at home, not to mention hundreds of thousands of people across the country. That’s really not good.

It’s hard to deny the policies of the Trump administration are having an adverse effect on American soccer.