Argeo Cruz poses with a medal around his neck after finishing a race. (Photo courtesy Argeo Cruz)
Argeo Cruz poses with a medal around his neck after finishing a race. (Photo courtesy Argeo Cruz)
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Could This Be The Election That Changes The Game For DACA Athletes?

Why this matters

They say elections have consequences. One group in particular who lives on the precipice on who gets sworn-in come this January are DACA recipients. Over the summer, we interviewed Argeo Cruz, a DREAMER, and an athlete. He said his story with us about wanting to be on the US Olympic team as a runner, a dream that was cut short. We revisit that conversation in this episode which originally aired on July 22, 2020.

When Argeo Cruz qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, he felt like he had made it. He was an accomplished student athlete, a college graduate, a collegiate coach, and now an Olympic Trials qualifier. All of his hard training and focus had paid off and he was about to compete against the best of the best. Some would say he achieved the American dream.

Unfortunately, this dream was cut short.

Despite qualifying for the trials, Cruz was told he was unable to compete because of his status as a DREAMer. 

DREAMers is the title given to the hundred of thousands of young adults and children impacted by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program protects hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth who came to the U.S. as children from deportation. It also provides them with a work permit. However, it does not grant enrollees permanent legal status. This means that athletes like Cruz who are protected by DACA are unable to compete on an international level with the U.S. Olympic Team.

Cruz was 11 years old when he and his mother left Oaxaca, Mexico to join his father in Florida. He was unware of his undocumented status until his senior year. He and other undocumented peers lived in constant fear that they would be detained and deported at any moment, including during school hours.

Cruz says, “I used running as an outlet. During those days when I was frustrated, when I was angry, I always used running as a way of releasing my anger and pushing myself.”

“When I feel powerless, I go out for a run,” he continues. “That’s when I feel like I can push myself more or I can train harder because that’s something I can control. It gives me empowerment.”

Control and empowerment are vital in such a chaotic year. DREAMers are in uniquely hard place due to the pressures of COVID-19, racial justice movements, and recent attempts from the Trump administration to revoke DACA. 

On June 18, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected another motion from the administration to cancel DACA. While Cruz says that this decision is a victory, the Trump administration’s approach to immigration policy has been incredibly stressful. 

When rescinding DACA was first proposed, he was terrified. “I just started having flashbacks of when I didn’t have any documents, when I didn’t have DACA,” he states. “It was just a scary time for me thinking of the possibility of being caught by ICE and not having proof of legal documents. It was pretty devastating.”

In terms of this most recent ruling, Cruz says that while it was a relief, “We’re not done. We’re still trying to find a path to citizenship. That’s the ultimate goal moving forward.”

The path to citizenship is not easy. It is an incredibly long and complicated process. It also prevents DREAMers from feeling like accepted members of the U.S/ who can give back to the communities that they were raised in.

Cruz could compete with Mexico’s Olympic Team, but he says that his home is the U.S.  

“For me, there is more in life than just to qualify for the Olympics,” he says. “It is a big deal, but at the same time, for me it was here in the U.S. and southwest Florida where I was able to find such a strong community of people that helped me achieve what I had to do.”

In regards to other DREAMers, Cruz says, “We just try to support each other because we know what it’s like to be a DREAMer. We try to encourage each other and we have each others’ backs if needed. We push each other to maximize our potential.”

In spite of pressure from politicians, policymakers, and even some peers, DREAMers persevere. They are empowered by the support among themselves and others. The United States is their home and they are Americans who have incredible talents, stories, goals and futures.

**As of July 24, the administration has put DACA applications "on hold" despite the Supreme Court's rejection of their attempt to end the program in June. 

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