CBS's S.W.A.T. went to bat this week on behalf of illegal aliens and those who hide them from immigration authorities.
In the episode, "Safe House," on Friday, December 10, the S.W.A.T. team rescues an illegal immigrant, Jenni (Isa Garcia), who was kidnapped by a drug gang. Jenni had been pressured to be a drug mule in Honduras and fled to the United States with a large amount of the dealer's cocaine. The young Honduran gang leader, Ignacio Cuevas (Victor Manso), is seeking out Jenni and the drugs with which she fled. (The explanation given by a friend for why Jenni fled with the drugs is "Jenni didn't know what to do with this when she escaped. It's not her fault.")
Jenni has been hiding in the safe house of a grandmotherly character named Mama Peña (Terri Hoyos). Mama Peña never checks what the girls may be carrying with them when they arrive. Therefore, she is oblivious to the fact that a large amount of cocaine has been stashed in her house.
A local Los Angeles gang leader named Marcos (Steve Louis Villegas) brings Mama Peña to S.W.A.T. member Luca (Kenny Johnson) to help in the search for Jenni. Marcos knows Luca from his neighborhood and trusts him. He wants to help Mama Peña find Jenni because Mama Peña once took in Marcos and his family. If you are keeping score, Mama Peña has taken in 1) an illegal immigrant who became a gang member and 2) an illegal immigrant with cocaine whose entry into the U.S. caused a Honduran gang leader to sneak in as well and bring violence. Mama Peña is supposed to be a sympathetic character.
There is one S.W.A.T. team member who is visibly unenthusiastic about Mama Peña's safe house, Sargent Deacon "Deac" Kay (Jay Harrington). The way S.W.A.T. usually works is that Deac takes the more "conservative" position in the show and a left-wing character argues with him. That left-wing character is often Chris (Lisa Esco). "Safe House" was no exception to this set-up.
You see, while Luca and the Spanish-speaking Chris had been at the safe house trying to get information to help find Jenni, Ignacio's gang pulled up in front of the house and shot it up in search of the drugs. Deac and another S.W.A.T. leader arrived afterwards to interrogate Mama Peña about the incident. Chris found Deac far too unsympathetic to Mama Peña. She confronts him about it back at S.W.A.T. headquarters.
Chris: What's your problem? At the safe house, why'd you come at Mama Pina like that?
Deac: I was questioning her.
Chris: No, you were accusing her.
Tan: Chris, calm down.
Chris: You stay out of this.
Deac: Listen, I'm sorry you saw it that way, but I was doing my job. The one where we ask witnesses and potential suspects the hard questions.
Chris: Potential suspects? You think she's hiding something?
Deac: Those are your words, not mine. Let's just leave it at that, huh?
Chris: No. I want to hear you say it.
Deac: Say what? Come on, Chris, whether you want to admit it or not, Mrs. Sosa is doing those women more harm than good.
Chris: How's that?
Deac: What if you and Luca hadn't been there? Huh? Then what happens? At best, she's a vigilante. And at worst...
Chris: At worst, a criminal? Do you have any clue the sacrifice that lady makes on a daily basis just so young women fleeing oppression and violence get a chance?
Deac: Those young women have no legal standing living under her roof, all right? So without it, they're just sitting ducks. They could be deported at the drop of a hat, sent back to the very danger they're fleeing.
Chris: You're right. They should go through the proper channels, like sweating it out in detention centers where they'll probably endure the same abuses they fled! And maybe by the time they're 40, be given permission to be in this country.
Deac: Hey, I'm not saying the process isn't flawed, but it's a process. You don't get to just choose which law you feel like breaking.
Chris: Wow, it must be so nice throwing stones perched up in your tidy corner of the world.
Hondo: Hey, that's enough. Right now I don't give a damn about either of your politics. We got a young woman's life hanging in the balance, period.
Count me on Team Deac. Chris never considers that there are other closer nations where Central American immigrants could safely migrate or that the vast majority of illegal border crosses are actually economic migrants. In her mind, the only option is making a dangerous illegal trip to the U.S. and sweating it out in detention centers, as though no other options exist.
Protecting illegal immigrants from deportation enables drug and human trafficking. In fact, the episode's entire plot is an unintentional argument for strong border enforcement. The script assumes it is easy for drug dealers and human traffickers from Central America to stream across the border and cause violence and chaos in the United States. A character like Mama Peña may believe her actions are compassionate, but they in fact enable the corruption of trafficking.
When the S.W.A.T. team is about to rescue Jenni and capture Ignacio in an undercover operation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrives on the scene. ICE's unexpected arrival puts the entire sting in jeopardy and almost gets Jenni killed. ICE can never be the hero in a Hollywood script even when going after a violent drug dealer. Ignacio runs off with Jenni, but Chris is able to rescue her by physically taking Ignacio down. The petite Chris looks like she could be blown over by the wind, but somehow she has the physical strength to beat a male Honduran gang leader. Right.
In the end, Ignacio and his men are arrested and Jenni appears to be spared deportation. Deac look sympathetically at poor Jenni as she talks with Chris in S.W.A.T. headquarters. Later, Chris returns Jenni to Mama Peña's home and gives Mama Peña a card with her cell phone number in case she ever needs help. Chris in no way discourages Mama Peña from her illegal and dangerous activity.
Americans are growing tired of being guilted for wanting our nation's border protected and immigration laws enforced. For years, poll after poll has shown Americans want more enforcement of our immigration laws. No Hollywood script is going to change that.