Define American Consults on Grey’s Anatomy Storyline About an Undocumented Surgeon - Define American

Featured Blog post

Define American Consults on Grey’s Anatomy Storyline About an Undocumented Surgeon

In “Beautiful Dreamer,” Grey’s Anatomy Dives into the National Conversation on Immigration.

Los Angeles, CA – Tonight’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy (season 14, episode 19), focuses on a surgical intern working at Grey Sloan Memorial who happens to be a DACA recipient. To ensure the accuracy and authenticity of this storyline, the producers enlisted the consulting services of Define American, a non-profit organization dedicated to humanizing immigrants through media.

In the episode, an agent from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shows up at Grey Sloan in search of an employee who may be working under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order created to allow some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to legally work and attend school.

Grey’s Anatomy hosted Define American’s entertainment media department—led by Elizabeth Grizzle Voorhees and Kristen Marston—for a writer’s room meeting, to which Define American brought several undocumented Americans (including medical students and representatives from Pre-Health Dreamers) for the writers to hear from firsthand. The organization also assisted in fact-checking and giving critical feedback on the feasibility of the situations that undocumented characters might encounter.

“Grey’s Anatomy has always ​been ahead of the cultural curve, and Define American is honored and privileged to have worked with their expert team in charting new territory about how undocumented Americans are portrayed on network television,” says Elizabeth Grizzle Voorhees, a veteran showrunner who serves as the organization’s Managing Director of Creative Initiatives. “​Define American is incredibly proud of tonight’s episode​, which​ is a ​highlight of ​our work in helping the entertainment industry tell accurate and inclusive stories of immigrants, documented and undocumented.”

The relationship between Grey’s Anatomy and Define American began when show creator, Shonda Rhimes, and Define American founder Jose Antonio Vargas met during the Amplify retreat, an event dedicated to exploring inclusive representation in Hollywood, which was co-sponsored by CAA and Ford Foundation. From there, conversations began flowing between the two organizations about how undocumented Americans are represented on television.

Define American consulted on more than 23 television and film projects in 2017, including NBC’s Superstore and Hulu’s East Los High. This is the non-profit’s first collaboration with ABC/Disney.

In addition to consulting with writers, producers and directors, Define American’s Creative Initiatives team created the first-ever Media Reference Guide on Immigrants and Immigration for Entertainment Professionals in 2017, which provides helpful definitions and context around immigration-related terms and debates. Next week the Creative Initiatives team is also producing the third annual Define American Film Festival (DAFF) in Chicago. After seeing the impact of its award-winning films Documented (CNN) and White People (MTV), Define American launched DAFF––a festival that uniquely brings together journalists and experts in film and activism––amid growing anti-immigrant sentiment and debate over American values during the 2016 Iowa caucuses. Since then, DAFF has visited a new city every year, including Des Moines and Charlotte.

About Define American

Define American is the nation’s leading non-profit media organization that fights injustice and anti-immigrant hate through the power of storytelling. Through event curation, media consulting and creation, and grassroots organizing, Define American jumpstarts widespread culture change around citizenship, race and identity in a changing America. It was founded in 2011 by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas. For more information, visit


Let's Talk

Create change, one story at a time.