When it comes to her role as Natalie “Fig” Figueroa on Netflix’s hit series “Orange Is The New Black” actress and activist Alysia Reiner might come off just as cold bolded as Fig is. The break out star has become known for her role as the series secondary antagonist of OITNB’s first two seasons where we watched her callously deal with the show’s female inmates.
But in a recent interview Reiner, the name behind the series’ character who ultimately became an anti-hero in later seasons, is proving she’s got a much softer heart than her character might lead us to believe.
During the series’ final season Fig took on the role of warden at an ICE detainment facility.
The highly talked about story plot has received rave reviews from critics for its timeliness and heartfelt depiction of current events related to immigration in the U.S. Many of the series beloved characters battled issues such as deportation, and saw one of the series original cast members sent back to a country she hardly knew.
As warden of the facility, Fig was often caught up in the terror of ICE and the depicted border crisis. Speaking about the experience of shooting these scenes with Buzzfeed, Reiner said that she found herself often experiencing overwhelm.
At one point, Reiner said that “just the imaginary circumstance of it” was upsetting.
“My character doesn’t break down. She handles it. She keeps it in,” Reiner said in the interview. “But after two takes, it was the first time in my life where I stopped a set, where I could not breathe and I could not stop crying. Just the idea of what’s going on… It’s deeply heartbreaking.”
After only having a “light” version of the experience that so many women, men, and children are currently enduring on U.S. soil, Reiner is encouraging fans of the show to get involved.
In her interview, Reiner encouraged fans of the show to contact “representatives to say this is not okay.”
Reiner specifically encouraged fans to contact their local representatives to address a recent incident involving ICE that had directly been influenced by the show. Earlier this month, after the show featured a real and free hotline that offered detainees a chance to contact lawyers, ICE shut it down.
“This hotline is necessary for people in detention centers. It’s horrific that it’s been shut down, so deeply wrong,” Reiner said during her interview and encouraged users to contact representatives to complain.
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Last summer, images of undocumented immigrant children went viral. These images didn’t show them crying, or being taken away from their parents. These children were pictured alone in court. The nameless children had no one by their side, no one to represent them, and had no clue what was going on, despite the fact that they were there trying to seek asylum. In some cases, these children wore headphones as a means to translate what the judge was saying. However, given that they were just children, the translation was almost useless. Reports are now servicing that immigration officials are using the language barrier as a means to keep them out of the U.S.
An op-ed, written by a volunteer at the border, states that asylum-seeking immigrants cannot read or write in English or in their native tongue and immigration officials are taking advantage of that.
Emily Reed, a recent grad student from Barnard University, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post that stated she witnessed this manipulation from immigration officials against illiterate undocumented people. Reed was at the border in Texas volunteering with classmates at the South Texas Family Residential Center volunteering with the Dilley Pro Bono Project when she witnessed this manipulation.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection often conveniently exploit asylum seekers who cannot read. Along with an unfamiliarity with our deliberately complex immigration system, the illiteracy of Central American migrants, especially women, facilitates the deportation of parents and separation of families,” Reed wrote. She added, “By manipulating illiterate refugees who often unwittingly sign away their rights, the U.S. government is violating the basic tenets of the internationally recognized and protected right to seek asylum.”
Reed added that her volunteer program with the legal center provided Spanish documents to the migrant families, but they couldn’t under that either.
“Simple translation is not enough,” she wrote. “The Dilley Pro Bono Project provides documents in Spanish, but even this paperwork was difficult for many migrant women to understand. Many women I helped to fill out paperwork struggled simply to write their children’s birth dates.”
The migrant families are being rushed within the court and legal process, which in turn, is causing deportation to happen a lot faster.
Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported that the haste paperwork at the border made it possible for immigration officials to rush and deport undocumented immigrants. The ACLU stated this process should not be rushed because people need to take their time and understand what is going on and what it is that they’re signing.
“This waiting period is crucial to ensure that parents have an opportunity to make an informed decision about whether to fight their own removal cases, leave their children (who may have their own asylum claims) behind in the United States, or make some other decision,” the ACLU stated lasted year. “In short, families will be making life-altering decisions after months of traumatic separation — and the fact that the government is trying to shortchange them a matter of days to do so is galling.”
A New York Times report showed that 58,000 asylum seekers are currently stuck in Mexico under Trump’s policy because they’re awaiting asylum hearings.
The backlog for these asylum hearings is up to six to eight months, and when they’re ready for their hearing the majority of them won’t understand what needs to be done. This is why they need proper representation, and a patient legal system so they comprehend what is being asked of them and what the next steps are.
What makes this matter even worse is that there’s not enough legal representation for each family unit, or individual, at the border.
Last year, it was very apparent that there were not enough lawyers or legal help for undocumented immigrants at the border, and this year there’s even more undocumented people awaiting help and attempting to seek asylum. There people like Reed who want to help asylum seekers, but it’s not as easy as they might think.
“People see the crisis happening, and they want to do something right now, which is great. But when we explain that this is a long-term fight, and we need your long-term commitment. That’s when people sort of back off.” Zenén Jaimes Pérez, the communications director at the Texas Civil Rights Project, told Huffington Post last year.
As the 2020 presidential election draws near, every public act that involves issues of citizenship and migration becomes a political statement (perhaps involuntarily, but a statement nevertheless). That is why having a civic act involving issues of immigration in front of a stadium full of baseball fans is a super relevant ideological statement. Last weekend, at Citizen Bank Park in Philly, a few individuals had one of the most significant days of their lives.
Fifteen new American citizens were sworn in before the Phillies-Red Sox game last Sunday.
Credit: Screen capture. CBS News.
Yes, 15 new American citizens of all kinds of origins were cheered as they waved flags and swore their allegiance to the United States. The new citizens, of all kinds of backgrounds, are a true snapshot of multicultural America, a representation that goes counter to the Trump Era vision of exclusivity and privilege.
As reported by CBS News, MLB has become an advocate for this kind of ceremonies: “Fifteen new Philadelphia-area residents from 11 different countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens Sunday at the game. The newly minted U.S. citizens are among the over 700 new citizens who have been naturalized at 11 professional ballparks this summer”. By the way, the Phillies lost 6-3 to Boston, but the evening had a celebratory vibe, of course!
And what could be more American than becoming a citizen in Philadelphia, right?
Credit: Giphy. Anonymous.
After all, the United States Constitution was signed by the Founding Fathers there, right? What a moment it must have been for the 15 new citizens, some of whom surely had perilous migration paths, when they heard: “”Congratulation, you are now citizens of the United States of America. You now share the same rights, the same privilege, the same obligations as any citizen of this great country”. And to be honest, there are few things as American as a day at the ballpark.
And let’s remember that Pennsylvania was all red after the 2016 presidential election, so statements like this are increasingly important for those who wish Trump to be kicked out of office.
Just look at that red tide. Pennsylvania is heavily reliant on manufacturing industries that have been hit hard by global trade and the move of American companies overseas. The steel manufacturing industry, for instance, has lived under extreme duress for decades. This is perhaps why Trump’s message resonated with disgruntled workers. The state has large numbers of Latino presence, mainly Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. So statements of civil inclusion such as the citizenship ceremony at the stadium could send a message: we are all the same, we all deserve a shot, we are all equal.
All it takes is a good hearted judge with a love for baseball.
Credit: Twitter. @PhillyInquirer
The ceremony was performed by Juan R. Sanchez, a judge of Puerto Rican origin who understood what multiculturalism really means on a personal level when baseball made him feel part of the community. He told CBS News: “We hope we remind people of the tremendous privileges we have under the constitution. And remind people that we have a responsibility to be engaged.” Preach, querido juez Sanchez.
Last year the ceremony had 19 new Americans, so the trend is continuing that is just una chingonería.
Credit: Twitter. @GraceMarioano
The trend is constant now. Last year 19 new Americans were welcome at a Phillies game. By the way, those red hats are Phillies cachuchas, so don’t be alarmed!
But the trend goes back to the early 2010s, as reported by the Portland Press Herald. In 2012, before a Minor League game more than two dozen children were welcome as United States citizens: “The children were part of a pre-game ceremony that celebrated their new citizenship at Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs. The children, from Congo, Germany, the Philippines and Somalia, were presented certificates recognizing their citizenship, derived from their naturalized parents or adoption. After the ceremony was held between home plate and the backstop, the children and their families stayed for the Sea Dogs’ game with the Reading Phillies. The children held a giant American flag during the playing of the national anthem”.
Becoming a citizen of a foreign country is a big step in anyone’s life, particularly if they flee perilous circumstances at home, so having a whole stadium cheer you must be quite something!
Citizenship ceremonies at Phillies’ games have a dual purpose: make new Americans feel welcome and educating the public.
Credit: Twitter. @SU2Citizenship
The best way to make a statement is a lived experience. The thousands of fans that have been overcome by emotion as new Americans are welcomed can see, and feel, how great cultural diversity is. This photo is from a ceremony in 2015.
We are Los Dodgers fans, but the Philadelphia Phillies will always have a special place in our hearts.
Credit: Facebook. Philadelphia Phillies.
As Angelenos and Latinos we remain loyal to our Dodgers, but we gotta admit that the Phillies are growing on us thanks to their approach. They make citizenship ceremonies a community affair
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