WARNING: The following contains plot spoilers, if you haven’t watched “Chapter Ten,” do not read further.
In December, “Jane The Virgin” left fans in disbelief after Petra’s mother threw Alba, Jane’s grandmother and Xiomara’s mother, down the stairs. In Monday’s midseason premiere, the series reveals that Alba, who is residing in the U.S. without papers, is in a coma and her legal status in the U.S. could prove problematic once again.
As Alba lays comatose, a doctor informs Xiomara that her mother will be deported after waking up because she is undocumented and has no health insurance.
“She doesn’t have insurance and the hospital can’t afford to absorb the cost of her care,” the doctor tells Xiomara. “When the hurricane lifts, we will have to notify [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and they will deport her to Venezuela where she can continue to receive care if she needs it.”
Shocked by the doctor’s words, Xiomara yells back in disbelief, “That can’t be legal!” In case any viewers thought the Alba plot twist was an exaggeration (after all, the series is adapted from a Venezuelan telenovela), the screen freezes at that moment and the following reminder appears:
Indeed, incidents like this do occur in real life.
A report published in 2012 by the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall Law School and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest documented 800 cases of so-called “medical repatriation” carried out or attempted by hospitals over the previous six years.
A 2009 Florida state court case was one of the first to test the legality of the practice. Luis Alberto Jiménez was an undocumented immigrant who suffered brain damage and was left in a wheelchair. After administrators privately arranged to send him back to Guatemala, Jiménez’s guardian sued Martin Memorial Hospital in Stuart, Florida. The hospital had treated him for years, at a cost of $1.5 million.
The jury, which had no Hispanic members, eventually found in favor of the hospital. But Miami attorney John de Leon, who has represented people in similar cases, told The Huffington Post that the case nevertheless made hospitals wary of medical repatriation because “they’re subject to liability in a way they weren’t in the past.”
De Leon said these repatriations have generally been carried out by hospitals rather than U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He added that ICE is now less likely to target undocumented immigrants in hospitals because of the Obama administration’s recent directives to focus deportation proceedings on border incidents and on people with criminal records or prior immigration offenses.
“Obviously the U.S. government at…