From the unlikely Southern state of Alabama comes an inspirational immigrant story, filled with harrowing border crossings, border patrol, and a soccer success. George W. Carver High School senior Juan Garcia, an 18-year-old Honduran immigrant living in Birmingham, led the school’s boys soccer team to its first-ever Class 6A state semifinals, just three years after he was smuggled into the United States and caught by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
AL.com recently profiled Garcia’s journey into the US, which saw him leave Honduras due to gang violence, and almost ended when he was caught by immigration officials in Texas, where he was detained for 15 days. However, thanks to 2008’s William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act, Garcia was able to reunite with his mother in Birmingham, who had lived in the US for over ten years.
According to Garcia, his journey wasn’t only harrowing due to this detention at the Texas border; he told AL.com that he saw a coyote murder one of his fellow refugees on the way: “The coyotes, it’s like this: If you don’t pay my money, I kill you,” said Garcia, while mimicking a gun with his fingers. “Yeah, I saw it. One of them, his family couldn’t send the money and they killed him.”
Following his entry into the US, Garcia learned English and joined the soccer team at Carver High, where he became one of the stars of a team consisting of mostly Latino players, a majority of them from Honduras, like Garcia himself. He encouraged a handful of his friends to join the team, which only began during Garcia’s freshman year–he didn’t play that year because he didn’t speak enough English to know that he was allowed to, joining instead in his sophomore year.
Unfortunately, Garcia and Carver High’s story did end on a slight down note, as the team got beat 5-0 by Cullman High School. Now that he’s played his last soccer game for his high school, Garcia plans on graduating and going to work at his stepfather’s construction company to save money for college.