The August 24 episode of NBC’s The Night Shift laid out a heavy hand of virtue-shaming on the issue of illegal immigration by painting ICE agents as cold-hearted men only concerned about meeting quotas. Titled “Land of the Free,” the episode pitted the self-righteous doctors against mean-spirited federal employees doing their job.
Arriving at the Immigration Detention Center with a SWAT team, T.C. (Eoin Macken) and Jordan (Jill Flint) are in the middle of a tense hostage situation. A Mexican drug cartel member is holding a guard hostage and an ICE agent is stabbed in the confrontation.
After the issue was resolved and the cartel member taken into custody, he's taken to the E.R. at San Antonio Memorial Hospital, a facility that has been converted to a Veterans Administration hospital where the doctors are military veterans. Sadly, in this episode, the docs are portrayed as sanctimonious and sound like the anti-Trump left against common sense immigration laws.
The detention center is shown to be in poor condition, mostly filled with women and children who are scheduled to be deported within the next 24 hours. T.C. - known for going rogue and skirting the law - deceives the detention center personnel into believing some of the illegal immigrants have measles and a busload of them are taken to the hospital for medical treatment.
The ICE guard who accompanies the detainees to the hospital is a complete jerk. When he discovers the measles ruse used by T.C., he tells them he intends to load up the bus and take the detainees back to the center and let their countries handle the sick and dying because it's not his problem.
Guard: You're telling me they don't have measles? You know the trouble you caused? Your guy lied to me to get them out of there.
T.C.: Screw your trouble. These people have meningitis. It's worse. These people would've died if I didn't bring 'em here.
Guard: Yeah, in their own countries, where they're not my problem.
T.C.: You for real right now? I tell you these people could die, and you're worried about, what, the paperwork? These people need help.
Guard: Yeah, a lot of people do -- folks who are already citizens. It's not the U.S.’s job to help everyone. And unless you're willing to let an immigrant family shack up in your spare room –
T.C.: I am an immigrant. My family didn't come here on the Mayflower, all right? They moved here from Ireland when I was 10.
Guard: Oh, that's a nice story. How many of these people are you willing to take home with you tonight? I want 'em on the bus now.
Jordan: Yeah, uh, just for your information, um, if you put them back on that bus, you're not only endangering their life, but yours as well.
Guard: I want to be examined first.
T.C.: Oh, like hell you do. They can't get theirs, but you need yours? That how it works? Look, we're gonna get you your antibiotics. Just let us do our jobs.
Guard: Fine. I'm taking everyone who's healthy back to detention immediately.
The implication is that a federal immigration worker carrying out the law is unfeeling and worthy of virtue-shaming.
The show also uses the story of a young boy named Angel and his diabetic mom - who it turns out has meningitis - to imply innocent families are being cruely deported. The boy is smart and wants to be a doctor. After being examined by Shannon (Tanaya Beatty), who tells him he is healthy, he asks her to diagnose him with something so that he isn’t deported. She says she has his back and will lie for him. He later overdoses on pills to avoid being deported.
Later, Max, the ICE agent who was stabbed in the hostage situation, is treated by Dr. Paul Cummings (Robert Bailey, Jr.), an African-American doctor whose mother immigrated from Nigeria. The ICE agent, who was born in Mexico, tells them the cartel member has been deported and returned a dozen times, “He’s scum. That guy is the reason people call us 'bad hombres.' These people come in our country and ruin it." Note the Trumpian terminology used.
Paul is immediately hostile to the ICE agent and tells Dr. Drew Alister (Brendan Fehr) his sob immigration story and compares the illegal immigration situation to the "fear and injustice" Alister felt before coming out as gay, only apparently illegal immigrants have it worse.
Max: Cops are guarding Romero, right? He's scum. That guy is the reason people call us "Bad hombres." He's been deported a dozen times. These people come in our country and ruin it.
Paul: "These people"?
Max: Don't get all P.C. On me, Doc. I'm first gen. But I did it right. I'm a good citizen, pay my taxes, follow the rules. That guy? He's the reason people don't trust guys like me.
Paul: Hmm. I'll take your word for it. Sounds like you have internal bleeding. Dr. Alister, let's get him to C.T.
Max: I think I pissed him off. Is he the one gonna operate?
Alister: Don't worry, he's fine. He's just a little sensitive. Maybe a little better bedside manner. He is one of the good guys.
Paul: If you say so.
Alister: He just got stabbed multiple times trying to keep a drug dealer from escaping. He deports violent criminals, people who come to this country to commit crimes.
Paul: Oh, you mean like that middle schooler T.C. Brought in and his diabetic mother? They look real violent.
Alister: That sucks, all right? But this guy doesn't make the rules. He's just gotta follow 'em. A law's a law.
Paul: Seriously? "A law is a law"? If that were true, this er would have been shut down years ago.
Alister: You know what I mean.
Paul: Do I? Drew, how much illegal crap has T.C. Pulled over the last couple of years? I mean, he was given the option to join the military to avoid jail time, for God sake.
Alister: And look what he did with his chance.
Paul: Yeah, and that's great, but he got a chance. Okay? Meanwhile, that Angel kid and others like him who have hurt no one, got no second chance. My mom is Nigerian, okay? And if she had missed a single filing deadline or hearing, I would have grown up in Lagos. I grew up literally knowing that I couldn't screw up, because there are no second chances for people who looked like me. You know, and I'm a citizen. And I'm rich.
Alister: But now you're bringing race into it. That's an entirely different conversation.
Paul: Look, people can see race, and they assume things about folks rocking a year-round tan. But it -- it's more than that, okay? It's about what's fair. You spent years in the closet longer than you had to because you were terrified of people treating you differently. Okay, you understand that fear, that injustice. You had a closet. These people don't.
Paul questions how Max could possibly do the job he does as a minority himself. The agent starts out strong in his explanation and then falls prey to liberal talking points. He tells Paul, “Because it’s not about sending families away. It’s about putting away bad guys. A least, it used to be. Used to be about tracking felons and human traffickers, people that made the world worse, let alone the country. But now…I don’t know." Funny, in the real world outside of Hollywood, the morale at ICE is much higher now under the Trump Administration.
Oh yeah – Max is also the agent who arrested poor Angel and his mom. He "ambushed" (his words) them at the courthouse when she was there testifying against her abusive husband (Angel’s father) and the agent blamed having to meet a quota for her arrest. Paul shames him about it and Max responds, “I am a weak man. My supervisor – he threatened me. Said if I didn’t keep my numbers up, he’d find someone who could.”
In the end, with a little not-so-subtle prodding from Paul to do something, the guilt-ridden ICE agent makes an anonymous phone call to the judge in Angel’s mother’s case and reports some "irregularities with the way [they] were brought in." So, those two get to stay in America on a technicality, after all.
This episode was a real disappointment. Normally, this show is quite friendly to conservative viewers. It honors veterans and the military. The hospital is even becoming a training center for military doctors who go to war zones. This episode was an exception where the opportunity to allow sanctimonious bleeding hearts to carry the show was too strong to overcome.