Without ever directly saying his name, Jane the Virgin uses its May 1 episode to address the current social climate for immigrants under President Donald Trump. "Chapter 61" starts with Alba being concerned about immigration on Jane the Virgin after reading about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in the newspaper. This prompts Jane to urge her abuela to march with her, but Alba is hesitant. Although Alba has her green card now, she is worried about being active in her advocacy efforts since she doesn't want to give ICE agents any reason to take it away from her. While Jane the Virgin is vague on some concrete details — like what march the women would be participating in — its message of acceptance and the importance of being politically active during Trump's presidency are loud and clear.
Jane the Virgin manages to have "very special episodes" every now and then while being grounded in reality and not too corny. And as Jane the Virgin is one of the rare TV shows that features a mostly Latino cast, it is only right that the series uses its platform to discuss a major issue affecting society right now.
"I think it's so important [to tell these stories] because it's important to the community that we're representing and it's important to the country that we're living in," showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman told TVGuide.com. "I think if Jane and her family were not aware of what's going on, it would be false for them, given that they live in Miami and they are a Latina family."
Have been asked a lot if #janethevirgin will deal with the new realities of the horrific T presidency. We do tonight...— Jennie Urman (@JennieUrman) May 1, 2017
The Trump administration recently opened its Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office, which has been criticized by some for perpetrating stereotypes about immigrants. And a report from The Washington Post showed that immigration arrests rose 32.6 percent in Trump's first seven and a half weeks as president — and that his administration's focus on undocumented immigrants is leading to more arrests of people with no criminal convictions. So the raids that Alba refers to are a reality for immigrants in the U.S. And the Jane the Virgin creative team wanted to tackle this hot-button issue.
"We feel a responsibility to react to this presidency," Urman said at a For Your Consideration Emmy event in April. And she explained that Mateo would wonder "why people don't want abuela in this country."
Alba's worrying in "Chapter 61" does lead to Mateo asking his parents, "Why do some people not want peace in this country?" and Jane's response is one of simple beauty and an example of brilliant parenting. But Alba gives wise insight to her great-grandson too, telling Mateo to say what he feels since, "You always feel better when you're brave." All of these factors, including the fact that Alba didn't speak up when a customer at the Marbella gift shop told a customer speaking Spanish, "This is America — you should learn how to speak English," help Alba to decide to take action by joining Jane in a march. And Urman confirmed through Twitter that "Chapter 61" was a nod to the May Day protests, which is particularly poignant since the episode aired on May 1 and immigrant rights was a focus for the 2017 protests.
But even after Alba is inspired to take action, the lessons don't stop. Alba finds out that Jorge is undocumented, like she had been when the series started. Their discussion shows that becoming a legal citizen can be difficult and costly and Alba's sympathetic understanding of Jorge's situation promotes the overall message of the episode: tolerance.
And that overall message is essential. Jane the Virgin promotes speaking up against injustice, and it's more relevant now than ever.