Feathered Bastard

Phoenix High School Track Coach's Deportation Set for Friday

​​Miguel Aparicio's story is a prime example of how the U.S. immigration system can take someone from one extreme to another.

In 2009, as he was driving down to a friend's house in Casa Grande to do some electrician work, he was pulled over for a minor traffic stop. In the process of the traffic stop the officer found out that Aparicio, 37, is an undocumented immigrant. 

Now, he is fighting an order of deportation that is set for Friday morning. 

But before his run into the law, Aparicio was enjoying his life as a cross-country coach for a few Valley high schools.

He first started as a volunteer coach in 1997 for South Mountain High School, but then moved on to Cesar Chavez High School. His most successful experience as a coach was at Alhambra High in Phoenix, where his team has won various competitions.  

However, It wasn't until his arrest, in 2009, that the school district decided to fire him and ask him not to have any connection with the cross-country team. 

But he defied the order. Ultimately, the head coach was fired for allowing Aparicio to have contact with the cross-country team. He would take the team outside of school premises to allow Aparicio coach the students.

"I'm sure the school district knows that I would still coach," Aparicio says. 

When he first applied at South Mountain, he had a valid Arizona driver's license, he got it before the state started asking for Social Security numbers to apply for one. In order to present a Social Security number, he made up one. 

The school district even fingerprinted him and did a background check on him, he says. Somehow he was still cleared to be a volunteer cross-country coach.

He re-applied every year, so each year the school district officials always had a chance to find out about his immigration status, but they didn't.

"I believe the school district office wasn't doing their job," he points out. "Because I was able to work for...many years."

Even though Aparicio was a hard worker (working as an electrician by day and coaching by night) and his passion for cross-country made him a likable guy in the community, he hasn't been a saint. In 2002 he was charged with a DUI and lost his driver's license.

But even so, the district let him go on as a volunteer coach after he had brought up the incident to district officials.

By this time "the [school officials] must have known that I was illegal," Aparicio asserts. 

It wasn't until 2009, when he was face-to-face with the law and the Arizona Republic started covering the story, that the district let him go.

"They said they were getting too much negative attention," Aparicio recalls. "So, they told me to go away."

His story that has made him another poster boy for comprehensive immigration reform, Carmen Cornejo, an activist who fights for immigrants' rights, claims.

"A lot of people [in the community] know him for his compassion and his involvement in sports," Cornejo explains.

In order to stop his deportation there is an Internet campaign to alert the general public about Aparicio's situation.

The last time Aparicio saw his native home in Mexico City he was only 15. He was brought to the United States by a smuggler, who was paid by Aparicio's grandmother. So he hopes that a miracle happens and he's allowed to stay.

"All my life is here," he explains. "So I don't know what I would do if I have to go back."

As of now he has to be ready to leave the country on Friday, unless he receives an extension so he can keep fighting his case.

"That's the only hope I have," he says.

But the chances of that happening are slim. Particularly as the Obama Administration is deporting more illegal immigrants these days than Obama's predecessor George W. Bush.

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Uriel J. Garcia
Contact: Uriel J. Garcia

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