At a time when the immigration debate is at the forefront of national discussion, a group of audacious, undocumented Latino soccer players search for a place to belong in their small, rural community of Siler City, North Carolina – home of "Los Jets".
"Los Jets" is a six-part documentary series co-produced by Jennifer Lopez and her sister Lynda, that follows the story of Siler City’s high school soccer team, the Jordan Matthews Jets.
The team is chiefly comprised of undocumented Latino immigrant children, brought to the U.S. at a young age by their parents in search for a better life.
“'Los Jets' gave us the rare opportunity to tell a story that is timely, compelling and honest,” director and creator Mark Landsman told Fox News Latino. “This team, these boys and their families allowed our cameras into their lives. And the result is a story of who we are right now as a country. My hope is that "Los Jets" puts a human face on a story so often polarized in the media,” he said.
There were six boys from one family. When the boys first joined the team, they would never show up on the same day. I asked what was going on; they told me that they didn't have enough shoes to come to practice together.
- Paul Cuadros
While following the boys and their coach Paul Cuadros' fight for a spot in the North Carolina State Championships, the documentary also highlights the adversity the players and their families face on and off the field.
In 1998, Paul Cuadros, a once thriving investigative reporter set out to North Carolina to report on emerging Latino communities in rural poultry-processing towns in the South. But when he met the boys who would soon become his team players, his position shifted.
Cuadros knew there was a bigger purpose to why he was in Siler City. He began to explore the anti-immigrant bias that soon led him to spend years trying to get the school to create a soccer team, a place where these boys felt accepted. Eventually his wish was granted and, three years down the line, he would lead them to win the 2004 State championships.
“When I first got there, it was a very much a ‘newcomer’ situation with migration happening in this community and it was struggling,” Cuadros told FNL. "I started working on this in 1998. It motivated me to move, the soccer team came out of meeting some great, passionate kids, who wanted belonging. And they found that through soccer."
When the Lopez sisters got word of the story, they knew it was something they wanted to share globally. And although they didn’t have permission at first to film at the school, Lynda Lopez appeared before the court house to help reverse the school board decision.
“It was something that was extremely nerve-wracking but important enough to make sure this story was told,” Lynda Lopez told FNL.
“The boys have been through incredible struggles and I felt like that part of the story doesn’t get told. It’s about the bigger problems and issues. You don’t think of small towns in the South going through this right now. If you watch the series all the way through to the end, you’ll see it’s about family, school, real life immigration integration if we can do anything to open up the conversation we’ve accomplished something,” she said.
The series allows its viewers to see the face of Latino youth and humanizes the obstacles these boys, their families, and those alike, face growing up in a place they call home but where they constantly feel misunderstood.
"I've been through so much with these kids. One family in particular there were six boys from one family. When the boys first joined the team, they would never show up on the same day. I asked what was going on; they told me that they didn't have enough shoes to come to practice together. So I went out and got them all shoes," Cuadros said.
It’s small steps toward a great solution that make all the difference. Cuadros and Lopez both hope the documentary leaves everyone with the message that anything is possible.
“Believe in yourself and love yourself. The greatest thing about 'Los Jets' is Paul believed. Something as simple as getting a soccer team started, he believed in that and it happened,” Lynda said.
“All things are possible. You need to work at it, be smart and figure out the solutions. I always believe there is a way to get something done and it does” Cuadros said.
"Los Jets" premieres Wednesday, July 16, at 10 p.m. on NUVOtv