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How 'Jane the Virgin' Snuck a Powerful #ImmigrationReform Message Into Last Night's Episode

By Vivian Kane | TV | January 20, 2015 |

By Vivian Kane | TV | January 20, 2015 |

Jane the Virgin may have the framework of a CW primetime telenovela soap, but it’s proving itself to be more substantive than any of us were expecting. Last night, in the midst of a love triangle, the discovery of a war criminal’s secret underground bunker, and a bunch of beautiful 20-somethings whining about stuff, the show snuck in a powerful political subplot.

Before the show went on winter hiatus, Jane’s grandmother Alba fell (or *SPOILER* was pushed by a power-hungry not-really-wheelchair-bound Serbian lunatic) down some stairs, and now lies unconscious in a hospital. While Jane was off being all stupid Team Rafael, her mother got some terrible news from Alba’s doctor. He tells her,

Your mother is in this country illegally. She has no insurance and the hospital cannot afford to absorb the cost of her care. When the hurricane lifts, we will have to notify ICE and they will deport her to Venezuela, where she can continue to receive care if she needs it.
Xiomara’s response is what most of our responses would be: “That can’t be legal.” But as the text that pops up on the screen tells us,
Yes, this really happens.

Look it up.


And it DOES happen. Undocumented immigrants can be deported, OFTEN WHILE STILL UNCONSCIOUS, on chartered flights, and the cost is often absorbed by the hospital itself. What’s especially scary is that it’s impossible to know just how often “medical repatriation” happens, because no country’s government is tracking it. There’s a great piece from the Huffington Post with more information on this very real but little-known process which tells us,

The Center for Social Justice and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest have documented at least 600 immigrants who were involuntarily removed in the past five years for medical reasons. The figure is based on data from hospitals, humanitarian organizations, news reports and immigrant advocates who cited specific cases. But the actual number is believed to be significantly higher because many more cases almost certainly go unreported.

Exposing this kind of issue seems more John Oliver than CW soap, but Jane the Virgin has set itself up as something different. This show is so smart and has already proven itself able to tackle heavy issues with a light touch (like Catholicism, premarital sex, and abortion, to name a few). This show is a major contender for the year’s Most Surprising Television, which is an actual award I just made up. So far the other nominees are Hayley Atwell’s American accent and that Girls butt-eating scene, so I think its chances are pretty good.

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