Cross Country Team Loses Coach to Deportation

Cross Country Team Loses Coach to Deportation

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PHOENIX -- Coach Miguel Aparicio was hoping for a miracle when he appeared at the U.S. immigration offices last Monday. Some years ago, the South Mountain High School cross country coach had signed a voluntary deportation order and his deadline to leave the country was last week.

But Aparicio hoped that his community service, his passion for sports and his role as the primary caregiver for his grandmother, who is a legal U.S. resident, could give him another chance to stay in the country.

The 37-year-old Mexican had no such luck.

At 9:00 a.m., when he entered the immigration offices, he was detained, and by 2:00 p.m., authorities confirmed his deportation order and began the preparations for sending him to Mexico.

"We're really sad because they refused the request to remove his deportation and we don’t know why -- if the ICE director said they were going to focus on criminals and not people who have given so much to the community, like him," said Carmen Cornejo, a community activist who led a social networking campaign to stop Aparcio’s deportation.

"When they confirmed the deportation order, I couldn't believe it. The boys (on the cross country team) stayed there all afternoon, hoping for a miracle, but for some reason it didn't happen. No, they put him the bus and sent him to Mexico," said Cornejo , who has also fought tirelessly for the DREAM Act which would provide a path to legalization for undocumented students. 

Aparicio’s story

Coach Aparicio came to the United States when he was 15 years old. He didn't have appropriate documentation, but that was not necessary in order to graduate from school and become a coach.

In 2009, he was arrested for a traffic violation, and that, together with a DUI on his record, provided the grounds for his deportation order.

Attorney Luis Peñalosa, who took on the case after Aparicio initially received incorrect legal advice, said it is very difficult for someone who is not the spouse or the child of a U.S. citizen, to regularize his or her immigration status in this country.

"And a lot of people don't understand the complicated immigration laws. It's virtually impossible for people like Aparicio to become legalized," said Peñalosa.

"Now the coach will return to Mexico after over 20 years (in the U.S.), with no family or close friends to ask for help,” he said.

Students and close friends of Aparicio stayed outside the immigration offices until they closed. They said goodbye to the man who helped them gain athletic scholarships, taught them to love sports and fought for immigrant rights.

It will take at least 10 years for Aparicio to enter the country legally. His grandmother is moving to Los Angeles to seek care from other family members, because her grandson will be in his native Mexico.