The CW’s breakaway hit, Jane the Virgin, has captured the hearts of viewers with its lovable characters and delicious drama. The show is an adaptation of the Venezuelan telenovela “Juana la Virgen” and includes all the fun you could hope for: overlapping love triangles, dead bodies, and baby daddies. Gina Rodriguez (Jane) recently won a Golden Globe for her stellar performance.
One fantastic twist is the show’s willingness to tackle important issues like immigration. Early on, we learned Jane’s abuela Alba didn’t have proper U.S. documents. I appreciated how the show opened the immigration can of worms with an air of nonchalance. It honors the tension many families (including my own) experience between the gravity of their immigration situation and the details of regular, day-to-day life.
But last week, the show pushed forward on the topic in a way that made me want to stand up and cheer. Three beautiful themes emerged as I was watching Episode 10. (Warning: spoilers ahead!)
What is medical repatriation?
After Alba was pushed down the stairs (classic!), she lands in the hospital. While still unconscious, the doctors notify the family that the hospital will not cover the costs due to her undocumented status. Instead, she will be deported to Venezuela and admitted to a hospital there. As viewers looked on at a character we love, the show employed its familiar text-on-screen explanations to write: “Yes, this really happens. Look it up. #ImmigrationReform”
So I did. While hospitals are mandated to provide critical care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, it’s only until a patient stabilizes. Since many long-term facilities refuse undocumented patients, hospitals are quietly and privately deporting them to their countries of origin. Medical repatriation painfully illuminates the real challenges that people and institutions face while the issue of immigration remains unaddressed.
Fear of social services
I am always amazed at angry rhetoric that insists undocumented residents are draining public services. My experience has been that people without papers avoid all government agencies, sometimes to a fault. There are issues of unreported abuse because immigrants fear ramifications. My husband was rear-ended on the freeway. After he made sure the other passenger was safe, he left the scene before police arrived, even though the accident was completely not his fault.
Jane the Virgin illustrated the fears of many mixed status families when Jane is deciding how to handle her malpractice lawsuit. Ultimately, Jane acknowledges her grandmother’s fear about engaging any legal situation and allows it to inform her decision. It turns out Alba’s concern is real, and her medical situation is another reminder why many immigrants actually avoid using any public services.
The beauty of relationship
Immigration is a complex issue. Solutions that seem cut and dry often lack a connection to the people who will be affected by rigid policies and wide-sweeping decrees. Our opinions and ideas about immigration become more nuanced and compassionate when we are in relationship with immigrants.
Similarly, Jane’s ex-fiancé Michael is a police officer. We can assume he has a healthy respect for the law as he is working diligently to break up a criminal drug ring. Still, when he finds out Jane’s abuela is at risk of deportation, he immediately pulls some strings to keep her in the country. His solution proves more effective than Jane’s father’s strategy: “I left word with a U.N. ambassador and Gloria Estefan. One of them will stop the deportation. Most probably Gloria Estefan.”
It’s refreshing to see a show acknowledging immigration and the way ineffective policies affect the day-to-day lives of real people. As a family that has walked the confusing and fearful road of life undocumented, I connect to this subplot. Better to relate to that one, I suppose, than the accidental artificial insemination!
Have you watched Jane the Virgin? What do you think about how the show is addressing immigration?
Sarah Quezada lives in Atlanta, Georgia in a talkative, Spanglish household with her Guatemalan husband and two amusing kiddos. She is a writer and blogs about multicultural life, culture, and immigration at A Life with Subtitles. Sarah is a big fan of travel, chips and salsa, marketing, and blogging. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook!
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
We’re always looking for new guest bloggers; please check out our Guest Blog Submission Guidelines if you’re interested.