There are real human costs to America’s immigration policy. Freeform’s Party of Five explored those consequences deftly as it followed the five Acosta children after their parents were deported. The first season ends with the heartbreaking tenth episode that found the family adjusting their untenable arrangement.
You see when Acosta parents Gloria and Javier were forced from their home, they originally decided all of their children should stay in the United States. The kids are American after all, born north of the border and entitled to all its famed opportunity. Oldest brother Emilio, a Dreamer, stepped in as the legal guardian of his four younger siblings and manager of the family restaurant too.
Twins Beto and Lucia did alright. At 16, they’ve learned a lot from their parents already and were ready to try out some independence. Not that they didn’t struggle. Beto had a hard time at school but his real learning curve came with his relationship with Ella. First love has a lot of ups and downs and these two have been through it. In the season finale, we see them together and happy. Beto really sees her, describing her to his questioning mother as “A girl that’s beautiful and smart and insecure and needy and lost. She’s always trying to find a home.” It was a beautiful moment and the two young lovers had to fight to achieve get there.
Lucia, on the other hand, only seems to be getting further from that sort of affirmation. She’s trying to sort out her identity and what it means to be attracted to women. When she accidentally reveals the true gender of her crush, her mom is surprised and worried. Lucia responds by insisting nothing’s happened, that she hasn’t “sinned.” Later, she tries to make herself straight, sleeping with a local boy she clearly doesn’t care about. The whole thing only makes her more confused. Thankfully her mom comes around before she goes back home, telling her daughter, “There’s nothing you could ever do, no way you could ever be, no one you could ever love that would make me love you any less.” It’s a start but there’s still a long road ahead before Lucia learns to love herself.
And while Lucia and Beto figure out dating, the rest of the Acostas are locked in some sort of family love triangle where everyone loves each other and no one knows who should be together. Val’s spent all season just trying to be with her parents. She testified at the hearing in an effort to stop their deportation. She pretended to be the girl her mom’s taking care of. She ran away from home to get to them. Finally, she figures out a healthy way to get what she needs – she asks her dad to let her stay in Mexico.
Of course, she doesn’t know her parents are barely together with Gloria unwilling to be a wife when she can’t be a mother. In some ways, reuniting with her youngest solves all this, giving the Acosta parents a second chance. In others, it just sets up more heartbreak. Back in LA, Emilio reads Val’s request as his personal failing, particularly because social services are breathing down his neck. How come he couldn’t be enough for Val, for Rafa? Who will he be now that he doesn’t have the kids to take care of? He can’t go back to his old life and yet his new one is suddenly gone too. And Val and Rafa probably can’t stay in Mexico forever. Will they have to say goodbye to their parents again at some later date (say when Val’s starting high school and Rafa’s going to kindergarten)? Won’t it just be harder then?
This episode had a different tone than many of the others – it wasn’t sad so much as angry. And the Acostas have earned their righteous anger. As Emilio says, raising Val “shouldn’t be my job. My sister has two parents, great parents who want to be taking care of her but can’t. I am not the problem. I am not the problem. This country, what they did to my parents and to their children, that’s the problem.” He’s done his best and his country has betrayed him.
Even as the Acostas figure out how best to respond to that betrayal, the wound still festers, forcing a loving family apart. I’m hoping for a second season and chance for the whole family to heal more, love each other more deeply, and grow more. It’s been beautiful to watch this Latinx family on TV in all their beauty and diversity, proving that our community is more than any single story. I’m looking forward to spending more time with the Acostas, no matter which side of the border they’re on. They’re a family that deserves to be together and on our screens.