Miguel Aguilar’s Inspiring Journey From Undocumented Teenager to Major League Soccer Player

Miguel Aguilar always has his Mexican passport and special work permit on hand while traveling with DC United. Why, you might ask? Because despite having lived in the US for over a decade, he has never gained permanent citizenship. Thankfully, this hasn’t stopped the 21-year-old MLS rookie on his remarkable road to success; defying all odds, Aguilar gained legal status two and a half years ago upon the expiration of his visa under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act and graduated from college with a 3.7 GPA before being drafted as the 17th overall pick by league-leading United in January.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US before the age of sixteen to get renewable work visas and avoid deportation. The 2012 government initiative has provided temporary protection to around 700,000 people in the US, all of whom entered the country at very young ages. The path to naturalization is still nonexistent, but the plan does enable people to get work permits and Social Security numbers that are vital to their success and personal growth.

Aguilar is the first DACA recipient to sign a contract.

Aguilar is the first DACA recipient to sign a contract with a major professional sports team. The first ever. His success story is truly spectacular.

On August 30, 2004, 11-year-old Miguel Aguilar and his brother made the long trip from Ciudad Juarez to Sacramento. Aguilar’s bordertown home had become a hotspot for unmitigable cartel violence, and the danger was so pervasive and palpable that even his own family was targeted; his teenage sister was nearly kidnapped while walking in a park with their mother.

In a recent interview with Steven Goff of the Washington Post, Aguilar said that after completing their journey, the family knew that “there was no going back… It was better to maybe struggle a little more in Sacramento than going back to Juarez and risking something happening with the violence.”

Soccer was the glue that tied everything together for Aguilar.

In the midst of it all, soccer was the glue that tied everything together for Aguilar. He realized as a kid that it might not pay the necessary dividends in the long run, but to everyone’s elation it did in the end. In the same interview, he shines light on one of the happiest days of his life:

“Ever since I was little, I made my mom a promise. I told her if by the time I was 18, soccer hadn’t paid off, I would stop playing and find a job. She never said, ‘You can’t play anymore because we are struggling.’ She always supported me. One of the happiest days of my life was when I showed her the papers with the [four-year] scholarship offer.”

Aguilar graduated early from the University of San Francisco with a finance degree, a three-time second-team West Coast Conference selection and first team all-conference pick as a senior. More recently, he has made 14 appearances with four starts for DC United. His work rate– a quality that has characterized all aspects of his life– is unparalleled, and has been a definitive factor on his path to success and rise to prominence as a member of the best team in the MLS at the moment.