Miguel Aguilar Could Have Been Deported but Now He’s a Pro Soccer Player

Miguel Aguilar is a rookie midfielder for D.C. United of Major League Soccer. 

Disappointing result but what an experience and pleasure it was to play at Yankee Stadium last night. #DCU #NextOne

A photo posted by Miguel Aguilar (@migue.an17) on

D.C. United selected Aguilar, a native of Juarez, Mexico, with the No. 17 overall pick in January’s MLS SuperDraft. And the rookie out of the University of San Francisco hasn’t disappointed. The 22-year-old Aguilar has already played in 17 matches for playoff-bound D.C. United.

Aguilar is also the first Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient to sign a major league sports contract. 

Aguilar grew up in the middle of a drug war. He was raised near the border of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, once considered one of most dangerous cities in the world. Aguilar never wanted to leave Mexico, but his family had no choice. According to the Washington Post, Aguilar’s sister was nearly kidnapped and one of his uncles fell in with the wrong crowd.

Aguilar and his family left El Paso and headed to California. 

Few minutes late but before I go to sleep I want to wish my mom a happy bday, I love you ma #myrock

A photo posted by Miguel Aguilar (@migue.an17) on

On his 11th birthday, Miguel Aguilar and his older brother Andres jumped into their grandfather’s truck and headed to Sacramento, California. Aguilar’s older sister, Claudia, and mother, Carmen, joined them in Sacramento where the Aguilar family started their new life. Miguel enrolled at Encina Preparatory High and focused on soccer, while his sister and mother worked long hours to support the family.

Aguilar was a high school star on the pitch, but he would often come home to an empty home. 

See you soon ??

A photo posted by Miguel Aguilar (@migue.an17) on

“I was pretty much depressed,” Aguilar told Marcos Breton of the Sacramento Bee in 2010. “I missed my brother, who was like my father. It became kind of hopeless as I came home every day to an empty refrigerator. I would cry every day at home. I gave up on school for a while.” (BTW, that’s Aguilar with his longtime girlfriend).

Thanks to his soccer coaches, Aguilar turned the corner academically his junior year and never looked back. 

Tbt to graduation ?? #USFCA #Homies

A photo posted by Miguel Aguilar (@migue.an17) on

Aguilar earned a full ride to the University of San Fransisco and graduated in three and a half years with a 3.7 grade-point average and a degree in finance.

He was MLS bound after a stellar career with the Dons. 

Is it fall yet? #Golazo #Futbol #Falliscoming

A photo posted by Miguel Aguilar (@migue.an17) on

Aguilar was a second-team all-league selection three times in the West Coast Conference and made first team as a senior.

Aguilar gained legal status two and a half years ago under DACA. 

Flew from CA to DC just to see me, love you. #DC #WhiteHouse #Tourists

A photo posted by Miguel Aguilar (@migue.an17) on

DACA is a government policy that allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country before age 16 to avoid deportation and gain a renewable work permit.

But being a pro athlete doesn’t get Aguilar through customs any faster when he’s at the airport. 

To the first game of the season and my debut in the MLS. @dcunited #throwback #DCU #VamosUnited

A photo posted by Miguel Aguilar (@migue.an17) on

Credit: @migue.an17 / Instagram

When Aguilar travels abroad with D.C. United, he carries a Mexican passport and special work permit. Despite the paperwork, Aguilar sometimes gets stuck at airports for hours. One time, Aguilar was delayed for so long that he missed a team flight after returning from a match in Costa Rica.

Sometimes, his status has affected his pro career.

❤️⚽️

A photo posted by Miguel Aguilar (@migue.an17) on

Aguilar wasn’t able to join United for a match in Vancouver earlier this season because he was waiting for a work permit renewal.

Aguilar says he’s not sure which soccer national team he’d play for – Mexico or the US – if given the opportunity. 

Miguel Aguilar
Credit: dcunited.com

“I still feel my roots are in Mexico, but it’s close,” Aguilar told the Washington Post. “My love for the sport, it all started in Mexico, but here is where I realized my dream.”

Even with all the soccer success, Aguilar still finds time to give back to his community.

Credit: The Sacramento Bee / YouTube

Earlier this year, Aguilar visited students at his alma mater, Encina High School to encourage them to pursue their dreams. “Never forget where you come from. That’s one of the things that has stuck with me,” said Aguilar to The Sacramento Bee.

After rough times in in Juárez, Miguel Aguilar and his family are living the American dream. 

Playing tourist for the day #Lincoln #DCU

A photo posted by Miguel Aguilar (@migue.an17) on

Miguel’s family struggled for years to make ends meet after leaving the violence in Juarez. The Aguilars’ hard work and determination paid off. Miguel’s brother owns a restaurant, which his mother helps run, while his sister is earning a degree.

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