SWFL man qualifies for Olympic trials, can’t compete due to citizenship status

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Argeo Cruz, 27. Credit: WINK News.

An FGCU alumnus and current FGCU track and cross country coach thought he reached the American dream.

Argeo Cruz qualified for the U.S. Olympics marathon trials, but the immigrant from Mexico recently learned he is not eligible to compete because he isn’t a U.S. citizen.

We spoke to Cruz Thursday. He said recent changes to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) give him no clear path to citizenship.

Cruz said he’s tried for several years to become an American citizen, but the process to get there is typically very difficult. His goal is to represent the place and country he calls home.

Cruz has been a runner since his years in high school. Last month, the coach at FGCU qualified for the 2020 Olympic marathon trials.

“It felt like achieving the American dream,” Cruz said.

But the dream was short lived.

Cruz learned he couldn’t compete in the Olympic trials because he was not officially a U.S. citizen.

“My biggest motivation was to represent the local running community here,” Cruz said. “I wanted to go and represent Immokalee, represent FGCU. So, when I found out I wasn’t going to be able to do that, it was very hard to take in.”

Cruz is a DACA member, an Obama era immigration policy that protects people brought to the country as children.

It spares people in situations like Cruz temporarily from deportation and lets them apply for work permits.

“I have been here since I was 11 years old,” Cruz said. “I started school in 7th grade in Immokalee, so I attended Immokalee Middle School, Immokalee High School and then I was recruited to run for FGCU.”

Cruz’s family immigrated from Mexico, and he can’t run for them without the risk of losing his DACA member status.

Cruz reached out to U.S. Track & Field to see if there was any way he could still run this weekend, but they said no. His hope now is that something changes so he can represent Team USA in 2024.

We reached out to U.S Track & Field about any recourse by Cruz or future considerations. It responded and acknowledged Cruz had inquired about his eligibility status and said he was provided information about U.S. Track & Field’s requirements for eligibility.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Cruz did not provide any documentation to support U.S. citizenship,” U.S. Track & Field shared with WINK News in a statement. “Given the eligibility requirements necessary to represent the U.S. in international competition, Mr. Cruz seemed to understand the situation. USATF is not aware of any formal appeal or other challenge to the eligibility rules by Mr. Cruz.”

The 27-year-old coach is now using this unexpected hurdle to share a message that goes beyond the track.

“A lot of DACA members, they just want to also live the American dream,” Cruz said. “So I just want to use this opportunity to raise awareness about DACA, but also show people that we are here doing good things. And we want to represent the U.S. in the best way possible.”

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