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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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

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On March 20th, U.S. Border Patrol agents found a 9-year-old migrant girl unresponsive along with her mother and sibling on an island in the Rio Grande.

U.S. Border Patrol agents attempted to resuscitate the family. The agents were able to revive the mother and her younger, 3-year-old child. The Border Patrol agents transferred the 9-year-old migrant girl to emergency medics in emergency medics in Eagle Pass, Texas, but she remained unresponsive.

In the end, the 9-year-old migrant girl died–the cause of death being drowning.

The mother of the two children was Guatemalan while the two children were born in Mexico.

The death of the 9-year-old migrant girl is notable because this is the first migrant child death recorded in this current migration surge. And experts worry that it won’t be the last.

And while this is the first child death, it is not the only migrant who has died trying to make it across the border. On Wednesday, a Cuban man drowned while trying to swim across the border between Tijuana and San Diego. He was the second migrant to drown in just a two-week period.

Why is this happening?

According to some reports, the reason so many migrants are heading towards the U.S. right now is “because President Trump is gone”. They believe they have a better chance of claiming asylum in the U.S.

Another factor to take into consideration is that a large number of these migrants are unaccompanied minors. According to migrant services volunteer Ruben Garcia, Title 42 is actually having the opposite effect of its intent. President Trump enacted Title 42 to prevent immigration during COVID-19 for “safety reasons”.

“Families that have been expelled multiple times that are traveling with children,” Garcia told PBS News Hour. “Some of them are making the decision to send their children in by themselves, because they have families someplace in the U.S., and they know their children will be released to them.”

Is there a “border crisis”?

That depends on who you ask. According to some experts, the numbers of migrants heading to the U.S./Mexico border aren’t out-of-the-ordinary considering the time of year and the fact that COVID-19 made traveling last year virtually impossible.

According to Tom Wong of the University of California at San Diego’s U.S. Immigration Policy Center, there is no “border crisis”. “This year looks like the usual seasonal increase, plus migrants who would have come last year but could not,” Wong says.

As the Washington Post explained: “What we’re seeing right now is a predictable seasonal shift. When the numbers drop again in June and July, policymakers may be tempted to claim that their deterrence policies succeeded.”

What is the Biden Administration planning on doing about it?

As of now, it is pretty evident that the Biden Administration has not been handling this migrant surge well, despite ample warning from experts. As of now, President Biden has put Vice President Harris in charge of handling the issues at the border.

As of now, the game plan is still very vague. But in the past, the Biden Administration has stated that they plan to fix the migrant surge at the source. That means providing more aid to Central America in order to prevent further corruption of elected officials.

They also want to put in place a plan that processes children and minors as refugees in their own countries before they travel to the U.S. The government had not tested these plans and they may take years to implement. Here’s to hoping that these changes will prevent a case like the death of the 9-year-old migrant girl.

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Biden Administration’s Handling Of The Border Criticized By Both Sides Of The Aisle

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Biden Administration’s Handling Of The Border Criticized By Both Sides Of The Aisle

The Biden administration inherited more than an out of control pandemic when they got to work in January. The former administration also left the Biden administration an orchestrated crisis at the border. For some, President Joe Biden is not acting fast enough to fix the problem.

President Biden announced that Vice President Kamala Harris will lead the response to immigration at the border.

The approach, according to Politico, is going to be a two-pronged approach to effectively curb irregular immigration. First, the vice president will focus on stopping the migration journey by addressing the issues in the countries that people are fleeing. Particularly, Vice President Harris will be focusing on the issues in the Northern Triangle countries, which are El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

At the same time, the vice president will be working with the countries directly to solve the root problems. Vice President Harris will be working to strengthen the nation’s relations with Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

“I can think of nobody who is better qualified to do this,” President Biden told reporters at the White House.

There is a lot of talk about the U.S.-Mexico border right now from both Democrats and Republicans.

Bruno Lozano, the Democratic mayor of Del Rio, Texas, is calling on the Biden administration to take steps to curb the issue. Mayor Lozano was a guest on Fox News recently and spoke about what he saw as an influx of migrants coming into his town. Mayor Lozano told Fox News that the number of people coming to the border has strained Customs and Border Patrol in his city.

“You have a breach on national security levels that have never before been seen in modern history and you’re not even batting an eye about it, you’re not even calling it a ‘crisis‘, you’re calling it a quote-unquote challenge,” Mayor Lozano, told the New York Post on Sunday. “It’s a slap in the face.”

Some residents of Del Rio are critical of their local leaders shifting blame for their own shortcomings.

The brutal winter storm that recently shut down Texas depleted many municipalities of their resources. Residents in Del Rio are putting the blame on their local leaders who have tried to pass the buck. Weeks after the winter storm crippled Texas, grocery store shelves remained empty and residents felt overlooked.

Mayor Lozano has been pleading with President Biden to step up and help them deal with the influx of migrants. Del Rio has one processing center for migrants and the increase has left the city and the processing facility strained.

The Biden administration has faced backlash after photos of detention centers show people sleeping on floors.

There have been several reports that the Biden administration is building new places to hold migrants that have come to the border seeking asylum. The administration is currently taking in unaccompanied minors who are arriving at the border while preventing other migrants from crossing the border.

The Biden administration promised to change the approach to the border, but Title 42 has been left intact. Title 42, which was enacted by the former administration at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, keeps people from entering the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order that invoked Title 42, which closed the border indefinitely due to public health concerns.

At the root of the attention is the claim that there is a surge of migrants.

Some Republican politicians are claiming that news of more lenient immigration laws is prompting a “surge” of arrivals. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California claims that what is happening is a “crisis … created by the presidential policies of this new administration.”

Yet, a Washington Post report debunks the idea that there is a sudden surge. Rather, what is happening, according to the report, is a usual seasonal trend. CBP has reported a 28 percent increase in apprehensions at the southern border in January and February but data shows an annual spike in migrants from March to May every year.

The issues on the border are complex and will require a lot of time and energy to handle effectively and compassionately. The Biden administration promised to tackle the complex issue of immigration during the campaign.

READ: Biden Is Counting On Mexico’s President To Help With Immigration But That’s A Risky Move

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