Like putting a serving of spinach in brownies as a way of tricking a kid to eat their vegetables, the writers of Jane The Virgin sometimes like to mix a heaping helping of politics into their rom-com telenovela. The latest episode of the CW series was advertised as guest-starring Britney Spears, but it spent more time talking about immigration reform. There wasn't much mention of that in the commercials — but sure enough, when the episode aired, it dealt more with immigration laws than it did Spears' cameo. U.S. immigration laws and their effect on Jane Villanueva and her family has been a running storyline since the show's 2014 debut. Jane's abuela Alba, originally from Venezuela, has been in the country illegally for over 40 years, and has already had one deportation scare. In this week's episode, Alba took steps towards becoming a citizen, and the series cleverly urged viewers to vote in the upcoming 2016 presidential election.
The message wasn't heavy-handed, instead more matter-of-fact. But, it was also anything but subtle. In the episode, Jane, her mother Xiomara, and her grandmother go to see an immigration lawyer, but realize that even though abuela is a law-abiding citizen, her sponsor — Xiomara — is not. Xo's felony charge for stealing a piece of jewelry when she was a teenager, which we quickly realize is not the whole story, could put a hitch in Alba's plan for citizenship. Jane asks if this felony charge will make it harder for her grandmother to become a citizen and the lawyer answers, "Possibly, I'm not really sure. Immigration laws are constantly changing." And with that the words "#vote, #vote, #vote" slam onto the screen in red, white and blue.
It's no surprise that Jane The Virgin — one of the few shows on American television that boasts a mostly Hispanic cast playing a wide variety of characters — would champion this cause, but it's how they're doing it that's worth talking about. The show isn't necessarily telling viewers who to vote for with their hashtag, they're telling their 18-49 viewership to vote. Period. Full stop. Of course, we can't be naïve — the statement definitely carries some weight being that Americans can't get away from current Republican candidate Donald Trump and his rather radical views on immigration, and it definitely seems a well-timed plug from a show that focuses on working-class Hispanic women in Miami — a city that in 2010 The Daily Beast reported led the nation in percentage of immigrants. The immigrant population was estimated to be almost two million in Miami with them boasting such a large Spanish-speaking population that many said it was hard to do business in the city if you were not fluent in the language.
Jane The Virgin has focused on love as its immigration platform, though. Alba is a sweet grandmother who wants to take the steps to become a citizen for her new grandson. Her story isn't that farfetched. Millions of immigrants are mothers, fathers, and grandparents who came to the U.S. for something better and now just want to legally live out their American dream. Jane The Virgin puts a human spin on a political fight that some viewers of the show may feel isn't really theirs. But as the series makes clear, it's a war that's waging and no one should stand by doing nothing.
In the first season, Alba is pushed down a flight of stairs (remember, the show is a satirical take on Latin soap operas). She's then taken to the hospital where the doctor soon realizes she's not a legal citizen. With it being a criminal investigation, Alba could have been deported, but Jane's ex-fiancé Michael happens to be a cop, so he steps in and takes action. It's a dream come true that Michael saves Jane's grandmother from being thrown out of the country, but in reality, this is a constant nightmare — loved ones living in fear that their nearest and dearest will be deported. Especially when someone else's mistakes could be the difference between getting a green card and being told to go back where you came from. Alba's fear is consistently brought up throughout the show and it helps explain why so many people in her position would be scared to try and get citizenship. It's not only a lengthy, expensive process, there's no guarantee by doing the legal thing that you won't be punished. But, as the show makes clear, it should be.
Right now, President Obama is trying to pass a immigration reform bill, that as CNN explains, is aimed at "easing deportation threats for millions of undocumented immigrants." But after taking executive actions, the President has been accused of abusing his power and has had trouble passing the bill. Now he's asking the Supreme Court to rule on it. If they are able to hear this case before the current term ends, a ruling could come before next summer, which as The New York Times points out, would be right before the Republican and Democratic parties announce their 2016 presidential candidate. For many dealing with the threat of deportation, next summer couldn't come soon enough.
Of course, Jane The Virgin is a TV show so the Villanueva women are able to solve the felony charge problem with a little help from some chocolate edibles and a bottle of spray paint, but in real life, it's not that easy. Thankfully, the show is rying to make that clear, in hopes viewers will take the hint and #vote, #vote, #vote to actually enact some change for everyone out there.
Images: Michael Desmond/The CW; The CW/Hulu; Danny Feld/The CW