Every episode of Freeform’s Party of Five can basically be boiled down to this message: illegal immigrants good, border laws bad. There’s nothing an illegal immigrant can do that’s wrong and the United States is evil and racist for trying to stop them. Case in point, this week we have a story dedicated to reminding us that “cruelty is the point” at detention centers.
The February 12 episode “Speak for Yourself” has Lucia (Emily Tosta) continuing to volunteer for the illegal immigrant activist group known as Dream for Justice. This week, the group is attempting to raise money for a lawsuit against California detention centers. As usual, detention centers come off as torture chambers and death camps for illegal immigrants. Just listen to Lucia’s script for soliciting donations over the phone. And she’s only encouraged to get more heated.
Lucia: Hello. My name is Lucia Acosta for Dream For Justice. I'm sorry to disturb you this evening, but I'm calling to enlist your support.
Teresa: No. Don't apologize. You want to disturb them. Disturbing them is what's gonna get them to give money. Keep going.
Lucia: Our organization is targeting nine detention facilities in the state of California. What? No?
Teresa: We're not just targeting. We're filing a class action suit.
Lucia: A class action suit! To end the appalling conditions that detainees are routinely subjected to. To which detainees are routinely subjected to.
Teresa: Don't worry about grammar.
Lucia: Are you aware, ma'am, that detainees are consistently denied access to healthcare, drinkable water, even toiletries.
Teresa: Here's where you mention...
Lucia: Pedro Balbuena. A father of three who died in custody after being denied his diabetes medication.
Teresa: Good. Also...
Lucia: Estrella Machuca. 22. Who was made to sleep on a concrete floor for weeks while pregnant with twins. One of whom was a stillbirth. God, these stories make me feel so... I shouldn't come across as angry.
Teresa: If you do you do. You aren't selling car insurance, Lucía. You are selling people the opportunity to help right a terrible injustice. That requires passion. Which you have plenty of.
To help raise more money, Lucia hosts a fundraiser at her family’s restaurant. There are plenty of musical and slam poetry acts, but the highlight of the night is the personal stories discussing how terrible detention centers are.
Lucia even gets her own moment as she describes the state of her father in a detention center before he was deported. There, she laments that “cruelty is the point” in these California detention centers and how the people who cross the border illegally deserved to be cared for and understood.
Lucia: But up close... His face was raw. Covered in tiny cuts. He laughed it off and said he couldn't find a mirror. But these past few weeks, learning about the conditions in these places, I realized that... He was lying. There was probably one dull disposable razor that made the rounds from cell to cell. From father to father. Each man afraid of his children not recognizing him. Every man ashamed... Of appearing to be just a creature in a cage, deprived of every necessity that allows us to feel human. It's on purpose, of course. There aren't supply shortages or inadequate funds. Cruelty is the point. Withholding anything that allows people to feel cared for, or understood is the point. So that's the fight. It's not the biggest fight. It's not the ultimate fight. But it's tonight's fight.
The fundraiser gets interrupted when a fight breaks out and draws the police, but the group ultimately reaches their goal. Therefore, we can only assume that Lucia will only get worse from this point. After all, she was just rewarded for calling border law enforcement “cruel.”
I’m pretty sure I brought this up in the pilot, but it apparently must be said again. Most people in these detention centers are there by choice. They chose to cross the border illegally, and they must face consequences for breaking the law. If detention centers are really cesspools of cruelty like this show implies, they are free to return to their homes outside the United States. Instead, people like Lucia demand that we care and provide for every single person who crosses the border no matter the circumstances. Never mind the fact that California already has tens of thousands of homeless U.S. citizens that already need help. It apparently only matters if they’re not American.
Any death or suffering is a tragedy. That’s one thing we can agree on at the end of the day. But don’t pretend like it’s America’s obligation to care for the world. Places like California can barely take care of themselves.