Freeform’s family drama “The Fosters” is known for punctuating its season premieres and finales with stories that deal with hot button issues. The summer finale for the show’s fifth season follows the pattern as executive producer Joanna Johnson and her writers did not want to ignore recent news headlines surrounding immigration laws.
“We always do try to make sure that these stories reverberate personally with our characters and our family, that we’re not just telling ‘issues of the week,'” Johnson tells Variety.
“The Fosters” has taken on the topic before, through the character of Lexi (Bianca A. Santos) who, in a pivotal first season episode, actually threatened to call the authorities and get her own undocumented parents arrested. Now, though, Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) and Callie’s (Maia Mitchell) new friend Ximena (Lisseth Chavez) revealed that her father has been updating their family’s plan for what would happen if he were to get deported. Unfortunately for Ximena, the plan becomes more than just a hypothetical when ICE agents show up at the prom, which is being held in her roller derby rink.
“We felt it was important to tell that story again in light of all of the changes with our country,” Johnson says. “ICE has been given the marching orders that everyone is game and detention centers are filling up like crazy. It used to be that the higher priority were immigrants who had some kind of criminal offense, but now it’s sort of ‘anybody goes.'”
Johnson’s writers’ room was greatly inspired by activist Daniela Vargas, who spoke out about ICE arresting her family members earlier this year – only to also then be detained.
“We think it’s an important story to tell because these kids have been brought here by their parents, and many of them when they were babies, and they’re not Mexican citizens, or they don’t feel like they are,” Johnson says. “We’re supposed to care about keeping families together, but we’re ripping these families apart.”
“The Fosters'” summer finale airs on Freeform Sept. 5 at 8 p.m.