Oscar Valdez has enough to concern himself with as he readies for an ESPN-televised main event Sept. 22 in Tucson, near where he was raised, along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The unbeaten World Boxing Organization featherweight champion has found himself distracted from the test against unbeaten Filipino contender Genesis Servania, however, drawn squarely into the crosshairs of President Trump's hardened stance on immigration.
Valdez, who resides in Lake Elsinore and trains in Norwalk, told The Times Wednesday that Trump's decision, announced Tuesday, to end the program that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation affects several family members and friends.
Beyond that, Valdez said recent traffic stops have led to the deportation of one of his uncles and leave his grandfather vulnerable to being sent back to Mexico too.
"It's scary. Yes, we heard things, but I never thought it would happen like this," Valdez said. "It tears me apart to actually know my grandpa is scared. I had called home, just to check how everyone was, and I'm hearing my grandpa was this close to being deported."
In the case of his grandfather, Luis Fierro, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents pulled him over in connection with a 15-year-old traffic ticket, according to Valdez, and moved to deport him before the family stepped in and obtained legal assistance.
Valdez said he's already contributed $5,000 to his grandfather's legal fight as a court date looms after the bout at the Tucson Convention Center, which his grandfather plans to attend.
Though Valdez's promoter, Bob Arum, has long railed at Trump, Valdez previously limited his comments on the subject even while participating on Arum's "No-Trump" undercard, headlined by Manny Pacquiao in November, which included several Mexican fighters.
"I hate to be an I-told-you-so, but that's what I was preaching with the anti-Trump undercard," Arum said Wednesday when informed of Valdez's situation. "I realized that even if a portion of what [Trump] was saying would carry into policy, it'd bode something awful for these people."
The decision to end the Obama administration's 5-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows an estimated 800,000 young adults to work in the U.S. without immediate fear of deportation, could lead to the removal of those individuals, including Valdez's cousins, after six months.
Valdez is not a "Dreamer." He was born to a U.S. citizen mother who brought him into the country. That and his family ties have him riveted to how DACA will play out.
Trump has asked Congress to intervene. Former President Obama has called the move to end to DACA "cruel" and "self-defeating." Fifteen states have filed suit to keep DACA in effect.
"I'm chagrined DACA isn't being extended," Arum said. "These kids are as American as my grandkids, and now they face the possibility of being deported and losing their jobs. It enrages me, but it doesn't surprise me."
Valdez said he's now compelled to speak out aggressively against the push to remove people like his hardworking carpenter grandfather and architect uncle from a country that could use them.
"It's one thing to see these things, and another to feel it as it happens to your loved ones and so many who are close to you," Valdez said. "I just know if everyday people in this country could get to meet my grandpa, they'd say, 'Wow, great guy, a family man, big-hearted, in love with my grandma. … ' And to now think he might get deported over some tickets … it's sad.
"Then, we get this decision on the 'Dreamers.' I can't believe these things are happening. I can't believe a guy with that position, the president of the United States — the greatest country in the world — is this racist, making these decisions that I believe 90% of the people in the U.S., and everywhere else, knows he's wrong on."