FORT MYERS, Fla. — Running for 27-year-old Argeo Cruz has always been a way to cope with his biggest fears and bullying at a young age.
“Every time I would train, I would really push myself as a way of releasing anger or releasing sadness," said Cruz "I feel like in a way that helped my running as well."
At the age of 11, Cruz arrived to the United States with his family from Oaxaca, Mexico.
Cruz lived in fear of deportation for several years until he became a DACA recipient.
“It meant the world for me, it still means the world for me, because I was finally able to have some I.D to consider me legal in the U.S,” said Cruz.
Cruz is one of the nearly 700,000 people who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program.
In 2012, the Obama administration launched DACA to provide deportation protection for young people brought to the United States as children.
As a DACA recipient, Cruz can legally work and be in the U.S but does not have a path towards citizenship.
“Once I got DACA, I feel like that helped out with not being afraid anymore of getting deported, I felt safer,” said Cruz.
Cruz ran throughout high school as a way to boost his self-esteem, ultimately getting recruited by Florida Gulf Coast University to run.
During his four years at the university, Cruz broke several records for the cross country team.
Cruz is now an assistant coach for the FGCU cross country team, a position he's held for six seasons.
"Early in my life, running helped me escape from all the struggles I had, but then as time went by, I realized I enjoy doing this," said Cruz.
Cruz began running marathons six months ago in preparation to try out for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
During the Huston Chevron Marathon last month, Cruz met the time standard of running 26 miles in less than 2-hours and 19 minutes to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympic tryouts in Atlanta.
Those tryouts are taking place Saturday, February 29, 2020.
“I worked so hard for it, but at the same time it’s something that my parents helped me accomplish, so I was super excited once I realized I hit the time,” said Cruz.
Upon his return home and ready to fill out the application process to tryout, Cruz realized that although he met the time standards, he did meet all the qualifications.
"I realized that I [couldn’t] do this because I’m a DACA member and not a U.S citizen,” said Cruz.
Cruz says he had been so focused on meeting the time qualifications he didn't realize his status would be an issue.
"I was still trying to figure out if I could represent the running community here if there was a waiver or anything else I could do, sign a petition, but they have pretty set rules," said Cruz.
Cruz says he doesn't know if he would have made it to the 2020 Summer Olympics, but simply qualifying to try out gave him a sense of accomplishment and the feeling of achieving the "American Dream."
“For me running the tryout was more of representing the community, representing Immokalee, and representing FGCU,” said Cruz.
Although he is not able to tryout, Cruz says he’ll continue to pursue his passion for running through his coaching and advocating for other DACA recipients.
“There’s a lot of people like me that are hard-working individuals that are here in the country that want to excel," said Cruz.