Maritza’s Heartbreaking Storyline In ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Is A Reality So Many Undocumented People Face Every Day
On July 26th, we said goodbye to our favorite inmates as the final season of “Orange Is The New Black” dropped on Netflix. In Season 7, we laughed, we cried and we grieved the loss of these characters who have been in our lives since 2013. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the huge part ICE and immigration plays in Season 7. For the final season, the writers, actors, and directors of “Orange Is The New Black” respected the experience of the migrants detained at our southern border by shinning a truthful light on their struggles and abuse. By doing so, hopefully, these stories will reach others and the turmoil that these migrants experience will be recognized and reversed.
Here is what “Orange Is The New Black” got right about ICE and immigration during its final season.
Warning: The following contains major spoilers for Season 7 of “Orange Is The New Black”
1. Migrants aren’t the criminals conservatives claim them to be.
Conservatives are quick to claim that immigrants are dangerous criminals who just want to hurt American citizens when they arrive at our borders. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most migrants are just looking for a better life. Some are looking to escape persecution, gangs, and drugs in their home countries.
In episode 2 of Season 7, we first see the ICE detention facility that Litchfield has become. In it, detainees are split between orange (non-felons) and red (felons). Notice how few felons are in this facility. OITNB knows what’s up.
2. Some immigrants don’t realize that they aren’t US citizens.
Netflix / “Orange Is The New Black”
It might seem unlikely that someone would think they were a US citizen when they were really undocumented but it happens more often than we realize. Some are brought to the US as children and are raised to recognize America as home. Their parents avoid telling them the truth so that they don’t feel any less American than they are.
This is something that Maritza experiences first hand in Season 7. The Latina is released from prison but gets caught in an ICE raid. When she can’t produce her identification, she is brought to a detention facility where she finds out she was not born in the US as she thought.
3. The citizenship process is a confusing and difficult one.
The process of becoming a US citizen is a long and confusing one. There are several requirements that have to be met over a series of years. Even people who have legal permanent resident status need to renew their green cards and can be deported if they don’t follow the rules.
When Diablo goes to visit Blanca at the Litchfield detention center, his green card is flagged because it had expired and he was in the process of renewing it. When he isn’t able to provide additional documentation, he is detained and eventually deported.
4. ICE detention facilities are super crowded and lack resources.
We’ve all seen the reports from Congressmen and women who have toured ICE Detention Facilities. In these images and first-hand accounts, the centers are described as being overcrowded and lacking in essential necessities needed for its detainees.
This is shown throughout Season 7 but really examined during a scene in episode 5 while Maritza is getting dressed. She is surrounded by other detainees and forced to change in front of others. She can’t even brush her teeth as the sinks are set up right next to the open-air toilets. Not what we would call refreshing.
5. Detainees are not given access to legal counsel.
When detained and held by ICE, migrants are not given access to legal aid or counsel. This makes it nearly impossible for them to have someone advocate for their best defense. Detainees then go up in front of a judge unequipped for their trial.
This commonality was shown during Season 7 of “Orange Is The New Black.” In it, Blanca and other detainees go up before a judge without any representation or access to help. They are unable to make calls, send letters or reach family or friends who can help them. Often, if they do not know their rights, migrants will be deported without given their fair chance to dispute the claims against them.
6. ICE Detention Camps are corporate money-making businesses.
In case you weren’t aware, migrant detention facilities are run by corporations looking to make money off of human rights violations. Boycotts have been held against businesses like Wayfair who have contracts with these facilities. Essentially, they’re like any other business — trying to maintain its bottom line despite the human cost.
In Season 7, Poly-Con Vice-President Linda Ferguson brags to Figueroa about how much the company is able to profit off of each person they house. In the episodes, there is no empathy or shame in making money off of this travesty and we can’t help but be disgusted because we know that is the same mentality that real detention facilities take on.
7. There are people who are trying to help the detainees.
Though there is a lot going against migrants who are detained in these facilities, there are good people trying to help. Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is a nonprofit based in Texas that is dedicated to providing free legal counsel to immigrants and their families. The ACLU has also done lots of work to keep these centers accountable.
In Season 7, the ladies of Spanish Harlem contact an organization to help Maritza and Blanca get free from the detention center. After the two have left, Flaca continues the work and gives out the free number to other detainees.
8. Not all migrants are Latinx.
There’s a common misconception that all migrants at our borders are Latinx folk. Some even believe that all immigrants are Black or brown. This isn’t true at all. Migrants come to the United States from all over the world, including white immigrants from Europe, Canada, and Russia. However, they have less of a chance of getting caught by ICE because they don’t look like the stereotypical immigrant.
In Season 7, the detainees of the Litchfield Detention Center are shown to be more than just Latinas. The migrants include Asians, South Asians, Africans, Mexicans and people from Central and South America. It’s important that we don’t erase any migrant story by overlooking them because of where they are from.
9. Children stand trial just like adults do.
Netflix / “Orange Is The New Black”
Unfortunately, we know that children are detained as often as adults. These children are separated from the only family they know and are left with insufficient care. They even have to go before a judge to determine their deportation. They are given as much assistance as adults are: none.
In episode 11 of Season 7, we see this portrayed as children fill a newly built courtroom at the detention facility. The judge asks two children if they are aware of why they are there and if they have a lawyer. She then asks the pair if they even know what a lawyer is. It’s no surprise that they don’t as they look to be no older than 3 and 5. This actually happens in our world and it’s deplorable.
10. Immigrants travel vast distances and face many dangers to be here.
Another common misconception is that migrants come to the US on a whim; that they are just here to benefit from our economy and steal American jobs. The truth is that they are here to escape danger and, in doing so, often find themselves in even more peril.
We see this when Karla attempts to gain re-entry into the US after being deported. The mother walks over mountainous terrain in order to get back to her sons who are still in America. While walking, she becomes injured and is left behind by those she is traveling with. The reality is that many die on their journeys to America only to be locked up once they get here.