US soccer team protests for deported teammate

August 28, 2017

Donald Trump’s immigration policies — and the marching orders he has given to Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) — are destroying lives. When this hits home, it gets very real, very quickly.

It is a reality that recently smacked the members of the elite Bethesda Soccer Club right between the eyes: Their teammate and friend Lizandro Claros Saravia was detained by ICE, along with his older brother Diego. Both were then deported.

Lizandro, like many players on the Bethesda Soccer Club, has an athletic scholarship waiting for him at Louisberg College in North Carolina. He is considered one of the top 50 soccer players in the extremely competitive DMV region.

“He didn’t always have access to a car, but he was at every training session, whether he had to take the bus or walk,” said Matt Ney, who coached Lizandro for two years on the Bethesda club, according to The Washington Post. “He would show up no matter what.”

The brothers migrated to this country as children in 2009, fleeing widespread violence in El Salvador. Their status in 2012 involved “voluntary check-ins” with immigration officials. But that was ICE under the Obama administration — which was brutal enough.

When they went in for a check-in under Trump, they were jailed like criminals and scheduled for deportation. Lizandro had a promising future as a soccer player, and Diego worked in a car-repair shop in Baltimore. Neither brother had a criminal record. None of that mattered to ICE.

Their wrenching separation from family and friends speaks to the Trump agenda of using ICE as a tool of psychological and physical violence against non-European immigrant families.

The one satisfaction in this horror story is imagining their mottled faces when learning that Lizandro’s teammates — many of them white, private-school educated, and economically comfortable — protested the pending deportations outside the Department of Homeland Security headquarters in northwest Washington this past week.

They must have choked on their coffee when reading about young people like Lizandro’s former teammate Foster McCune, who was out there in the summer heat protesting. McCune has a full athletic ride to Georgetown, one of the top soccer programs in the country. “This is about so much more than soccer now,” he said to The Washington Post. “We want our friend back.”

People like McCune were standing side by side with Lizandro and Diego’s sister, Fatima, who wept during the team’s demonstration and held a sign that read: “Stop separating families. Let my brothers live their American dream.”

[Abridged from Edge of Sports. Dave Zirin is the author of the book: Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.]

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