Episode Of 'Orange Is The New Black' Leads To ICE Shutting Down Immigrant Hotline

The number was often detained immigrants' only option to get in contact with a lawyer.

Photo Credit: CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images

| August 23 2019,

7:57 pm

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shut down a hotline that allowed detained immigrants to get in contact with a lawyer after it was featured on an episode of the Netflix original Orange Is the New Black.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, the hotline had been operating for several years with help from the Freedom for Immigrants organization and was shut down less than two weeks after it was mentioned on the show.


The co-executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, Christina Fialho, expressed that the move was retaliatory against the group for spreading awareness about the number.

“Even a freely given benefit such as the pro bono hotline can’t be taken away simply because the government is now unhappy with how we are sharing with the public what we know from our communications with people inside,” Fialho said to the Los Angeles Times.

With detention facilities not allowing calls to 1-800 numbers and detained immigrants not having the right to a free phone call upon being detained, the hotlines were the only toll-free option that many immigrants had.

In the show, the character Maritza finds out about a toll-free hotline she can call to get a free lawyer, but as she begins to rejoice with the news, another character cuts her off.

“You have to be careful, though," she is warned in the fifth episode of the season. "Apparently if they figure out that you’re using the hotline, Big Brother shuts it down.”

Laura Gomez, who plays Blanca on the show, commented on how close the current situation seems to come to the warning given on the show.

“Now we see life mimic art in the most destructive way,” Gomez told the Los Angeles Times. “I wish this were more of a fictional situation and we were exaggerating reality, but it’s kind of the other way around.”

A letter of support signed by seven cast and crew members of the Netflix show in partnership with 121 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center, along with a cease and desist letter, was sent to acting Director of ICE Matthew Albence.


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