Entertainment

Inspired By Her Role As Blanca On ‘Orange Is The New Black,’ Laura Gómez Uses Her Instagram to Share Immigrant Stories

Season 7 of “Orange Is The New Black” saw the ladies of Spanish Harlem portray the real-life struggles of detained immigrants. One such migrant story was the one following Blanca, a woman who is wrongfully imprisoned and whose bad legal advice causes her to her imprisoned by ICE. Laura Gómez, the actress who portrayed Blanca in the series, played the part with a fierce authenticity. 

Though the role started as a smart part, Blanca’s story evolved into one of the most captivating of Season 7.  

However, we weren’t the only ones moved by Blanca’s story. Gómez herself was deeply touched by Blanca’s ICE detention storyline. 

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It was Summer time when I received the notification for a small -possible recurring role- in a “web series” by #JenjiKohan on a new revolutionary online platform called @netflix. The character description read something like #BlancaFlores: crazy Dominican woman in bathroom. She talks to the devil on the phone.” @jen_euston was the CD. I felt the audition went well, but Jen said I might be too pretty for the role. “I have a Picasso side,” I jokingly replied, but left convinced that once again I probably wouldn’t get the part. I had recently quit my job and was taking filmmaking courses so I got busy directing my first short film. Then about two days later I got the call, never imagining that a show created by a woman, bringing relevant if controversial topics about the prison system to the table, with such unconventional & diverse cast would help put #Netflix on the map, changing the concept of streaming service and how we watch television forever. Tonight is the Premiere of our last season and we have embraced that fact saying goodbye to a unique time in our lives. #BlancaFlores taught me never to judge a book by its cover, and reminded me, like Stanislavsky said, that there are no small roles! #endofanera #newbeginnings ????Cuando audicioné para el rol de Blanca Flores en una nueva “serie-web” creada por #JenjiKohan, la directora de casting me dijo que tal vez era muy bonita para el rol. Le dije que tengo un lado Picasso y nos reímos, pero me fui convencida de que una vez más sería rechazada. En ese tiempo había renunciado a mi trabajo asi que me enfoqué en mis clases de cine, y en dirigir mi primer corto. Dos días después recibí la llamada de que había sido seleccionada para el personaje. El resto es historia. Nunca imaginamos que un show creado por una mujer sobre temas de reforma carcelaria, con un elenco tan poco convencional ayudaría a poner a #Netflix en el mapa, cambiando el formato TV, ni que representaría tanto cambio en nuestras vidas y la de nuestra audiencia. Hoy que es la Premiere de la última temporada, y reflexionando sobre este personaje, me percato y recuerdo que las apariencias engañan y como bien dice Stanislavsky, que no hay roles pequeños.

A post shared by Laura Gómez (@mslauragomez) on

The “Orange Is The New Black” star shared with Page Six in a recent interview how the series has impacted her life. According to Gómez, since the end of Season 6 — when Blanca was shown being removed from the prison and entering ICE lockup — fans of the series have reached out to the actress with their concerns for her character. This caused Gómez to reflect on how she was able to uplift migrants and their stories. 

“I feel very grateful to been part of the journey and the storytelling of what it meant for Blanca to go into a detention center, and what it means politically right now, in terms of where we’re living in society,” Gómez told Page Six. “It felt urgent and important because of the immense response that I got…I started to get emotional about the responses I was getting.”

The reactions Gómez got to the ICE storyline made her reflect on the very real stories of actual immigrants and the difficulty they’re currently going through because of our political atmosphere. 

Netflix

Due to this response, Gómez wanted to use her platform as a popular actress to shine a light on these real immigrant stories. 

“I felt compelled and inspired to start this series, it actually came from my friends,” the actress explained. “A friend of mine had a tee shirt that said ‘Immigrants: we get the job done.’ I took a photo, and I felt compelled to talk a little bit about her. I felt like, wow, this is a person who’s an immigrant, who is doing an amazing job and is having a very positive impact in American society and that’s how it started.”

From that first picture, Gómez began a series of Instagram posts called “Immigrant Stories by Laura Gómez” — a weekly series that explores immigrant life.

  Instagram / @mslauragomez

In the first installment of the series, Gómez featured her friend Anabelle Soto. A photographer who is responsible for many of Gómez’s gorgeous portraits, Soto is an immigrant making a positive impact on her community and — according to the “OITNB” actress — is “an immigrant superhero.”

Since the first post, Gómez has featured an immigrant’s story every Thursday on her Instagram account.

 Instagram / @mslauragomez

While all posts show how the migrants use their talents and know-how to improve their communities, some include personal anecdotes that show the personal impact these friends, family members, and neighbors can have on our lives. This post features Adam Gagan, a former neighbor of Gómez’s who helped her with her physical limitations following her first knee surgery. He would haul her groceries and packages up to her 4th-floor walk-up while the star recovered. That’s what we call kindness and we should see more of it in our world. 

This post shared the story of one of Gómez’s fellow Latina actresses.

Instagram / @mslauragomez

A Cuban-American actress, Maggie Bofill met Gómez while they were both during theater in New York. She’s a first generation citizen from Chicago — her parents having fled from Cuba back in the 1960s. As Gómez explains in her post, Bofill did not have a connection with her Latinx heritage until she moved to New York and was able to meet the local Latinx people in the theater world. She’s the founding member of Labyrinth Theater Company — which received the nickname “Latino Acting Base” or LAB. 

The immigrants in Gómez’s stories are also community leaders who make a difference in the lives of other marginalized people

Instagram / @mslauragomez

Originally from Argentina, Cecilia Gentili is an advocate and community leader. She started off as an intern for the LGBT Community Center in New York City and later managed the Transgender Health Program at the Apicha Community Health Center. Through her work, she has trained thousands of individuals about topics like LGBTQ inclusion, immigration, drug use, sexual health, trans sensitivity, and intersectionality. Truly, Gentili’s work is making her community and other communities more inclusive and safer for marginalized folks. 

Gómez’s Instagram saga is exactly how stars should use their platforms to lift up others with important stories to share. This is what advocacy looks like and we need more show like “Orange Is The New Black” to discuss the issues impacting our world. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsU6sfE_KuQ

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Google Is Pledging $250K To Help With DACA Applications And Renewals

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Google Is Pledging $250K To Help With DACA Applications And Renewals

SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP via Getty Images

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is not a contentious topic among Americans. The program offers young adults who entered the U.S. as children relief from deportation and a chance to live out of the shadows. Now that it has been reinstated, Google wants to help some people achieve the dream of being a DACA recipient.

Google is pledging a quarter of a million dollars to help people apply for DACA.

The Trump administration did everything in their power to end DACA. The constant uncertainty has left hundreds of thousands of young people in limbo. The war waged against Dreamers by the Trump administration came to a temporary end when a federal judge ruled that Chad Wolf was illegally installed as the head of the Department of Homeland Security. It invalidated a member from Wolf stating that no new DACA applications would be approved.

Kent Walker, the SVP of Global Affairs, laid out the case for DACA in an essay.

Walker discusses the uncertainty the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients currently face after the tumultuous time for the program. He also touches on the economic hardships that has befallen so many because of the pandemic. With so many people out of work, some Dreamers do not have the money to apply or renew their DACA due to a lack of financial resources. For that reason, Google is getting involved.

“We want to do our part, so Google.org is making a $250,000 grant to United We Dream to cover the DACA application fees of over 500 Dreamers,” writes Walker. “This grant builds on over $35 million in support that Google.org and Google employees have contributed over the years to support immigrants and refugees worldwide, including more than $1 million from Googlers and Google.org specifically supporting DACA and domestic immigration efforts through employee giving campaigns led by HOLA (Google’s Latino Employee Resource Group).”

People are celebrating Google for their decision but are calling on Congress to do more.

Congress will ultimately have to decide on what to do for the Dreamers. There has been growing pressure from both sides of the aisle calling on Congress to work towards granting them citizenship. DACA is a risk of being dismantled at any moment. It is up to Congress to come through and deliver a bill to fix the issue once and for all.

“We know this is only a temporary solution. We need legislation that not only protects Dreamers, but also delivers other much-needed reforms,” writes Walker. “We will support efforts by the new Congress and incoming Administration to pass comprehensive immigration reform that improves employment-based visa programs that enhance American competitiveness, gives greater assurance to immigrant workers and employers, and promotes better and more humane immigration processing and border security practices.”

READ: New DACA Applications Were Processed At The End Of 2020 For The First Time In Years

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Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

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Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Julio César Aguilar / Getty Images

As the number of parents and children crossing the border continues to increase, driven by violence and poverty in Central America, many are growing desperate while being forced to wait in migrant camps in Mexico. While crossings have not reached the levels seen in previous years, facilities that hold migrants are approaching capacity, which has been reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is forcing many to check the status of their claims by crossing into the U.S. to speak to border agents. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more women are being forced to give birth in less than ideal situations – putting at risk both the lives of the mother and child.

A migrant woman gave birth on a bridge between U.S.-Mexico border.

According to Mexican border authorities, a Honduran woman gave birth on the Mexican side of the border bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. The woman was apparently trying to reach the U.S. side, but felt unsteady when she got there and was helped by pedestrians on the Mexican side waiting to cross.

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said the birth occurred Saturday afternoon on the Ignacio Zaragoza border bridge, also known as “Los Tomates.” It said authorities received an alert from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials regarding “a woman trying to enter the country improperly.”

It said the woman was taken to a hospital in Matamoros, where she was given free care. Her child will have the right to Mexican citizenship.

Hernández is hardly the first woman to give birth while hoping to cross into the U.S.

Just last month, a woman gave birth along the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. She had just crossed the river and her smugglers were yelling at her to keep moving as U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived. But she couldn’t continue, fell to the ground, and began to give birth.

The mother and her her daughter are safe and in good health. “They treated me well, thank God,” said the woman, who didn’t want her name used because she fears retribution if she’s forced to leave the country, in an interview with ABC News.

“There’s so many women in great danger,” Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, told ABC News. “They must really think before they do what they do and risk the life of their unborn child.”

Like so many other women, Hernández was waiting in Mexico under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Hernández was reportedly among about 800 migrants sheltering in an improvised riverside camp while awaiting U.S. hearings on their claims for asylum or visas. Other migrants are waiting in Matamoros, but have rented rooms.

Thousands of other migrants are waiting in other Mexican border cities for a chance to enter the U.S. — some for years. The Trump administration has turned away tens of thousands at legal border crossings, first citing a shortage of space and then telling people to wait for court dates under its “Remain in Mexico” policy.

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