Updated: August 02, 2020 10:26 AM
Created: August 01, 2020 10:24 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —A new Netflix documentary series takes a behind-the-scenes look at immigration in the U.S. One of the stories features Cesar Lopez, a Marine Corps veteran who was deported to Mexico.
"Well the Netflix documentary picked up my story after I had already been in the country for about four years,” Lopez said.
Lopez was born in Mexico and raised in Southern California. Under the law, non-U.S. citizens like Lopez can join the military, but they have to be a permanent resident. If that person commits a crime, they can be deported.
Five years after getting out of the Marine Corps, Lopez was caught in New Mexico with 50 lbs of marijuana.
"I was making $5,000 on the that trip and two days’ work, so if I was busting my butt for minimum wage because that's all I could find because that's all I could find when I got out of the service, because of my mental problems, that was like $200 a week,” Lopez explained. “So I had a baby girl that had just been born so what was I going to do? Feed her with $200 and food stamps and collect something else to help me pay for my rent or am I going to 50 lbs of weed and it's going to get me $5,000 to pay my rent, pay my bills, and feed my daughter, then **** yeah, man. To me, it's stupid man. Yeah, I'm going to do it."
Lopez was sentenced to probation and deported—12 years after being convicted.
"I went to vacation in Costa Rica in 2012 and that's when on the way back they did a check on me and were like 'Hey did you commit this crime' and I was like 'Yeah, but it's supposed to be sealed.' They're like 'Not for immigration purposes,’” Lopez said.
The new Netflix series, Immigration Nation, which premieres Monday, is putting a spotlight on the policies that landed Lopez back in Mexico.
"We're asking the governor to pardon deported veterans here in New Mexico. One signature can correct my life,” he said.
The series trailer shows Lopez in his dress blues asking then newly-elected Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s staff for a pardon. The pardon would be a step toward becoming a permanent resident.
Filming for the series wrapped up in February, so the part of Lopez’s story where the governor grants his pardon is not seen.
"I cried for three days straight, man. I just cried because of what it says on it,” he said. “It says she recognizes an injustice was made and the only way she saw to correct was to give me a pardon."
Lopez said he hopes the Netflix show will start a national conversation about deported veterans.
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