Things That Matter

ICE Targets Immigrant Helpline After It Appears In Episode Of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Proving The Cruelty Is The Point

In it’s seventh and final season, Orange Is The New Black aired a storyline to shed light on the dehumanizing features of immigration detention centers. However, there was a glimmer of hope presented in the fictional Netflix series: a hotline for immigrant detainees that provided free lawyers. Best of all, the hotline existed in real life. It’s not crazy to think that the level of exposure the show provided for the hotline could literally save lives. 

But even on the show, use of the hotline came with a warning: “You have to be careful, though. Apparently, if they figure out that you’re using the hotline, Big Brother shuts it down,” Gloria warns Maritza in the seventh season. 

In a chilling twist, consistent with the Trump administration’s war against immigrants, two weeks after the series aired, the hotline was shut down. It’s nothing short of gut-wrenching. 

Immigration advocates want answers. 

The California group Freedom for Immigrants, an organization that runs visitation programs in detention centers nationally and who provides the hotline, believes ICE’s decision to shut down the hotline was a direct response to Maritza’s immigration storyline. 

On Thursday, Freedom for Immigrants responded to the shutdown with a cease and desist letter. The letter claims that termination of the hotline is a violation of free speech and is retaliation by the government. Over 100 organizations and six actors from Orange is the New Black signed the letter addressed to ICE Director Matthew Albence. 

“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,” said Christina Fialho, co-executive director of Freedom for Immigrants.

Maritza’s story is too familiar.

Diane Guerrero who portrays Martiza in the show has been an outspoken advocate of immigration reform. Born to undocumented immigrants from Colombia, Guerrero, who is a citizen, stayed in the U.S. after her family was deported when she was 14. She told her story in the memoir In the Country We Love. Just as it is for most Latinxs living in the U.S., immigration for Guerro is clearly personal. 

When Maritza’s character is essentially left for dead at an immigration detention center, she is told about the Freedom for Immigrants hotline by Gloria. The hotline was toll-free, a pivotal detail because immigrants don’t have the right to a free phone call after they are detained. Heroically, the duo passed the hotline number to other detainees. It was a small act of liberation, as was featuring it on the show. 

Abolish ICE.

ICE told the organization that that tollfree numbers for pro bono attorneys and organizations require approval by the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Funny, it was never an issue before. Almost seems like this administration is actively seeking legal loopholes to be as cruel and callous toward immigrants as possible. Freedom for Immigrants has provided the hotline since 2013. The organization received as many as 14,000 calls a month from detainees and is run by volunteers who connect immigrants with free lawyers. Losing this service will have a cascading negative impact on immigrants and their loved ones.

The cruelty is the point.

Meanwhile, the ACLU is suing the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana for the unlawful jailing of Ramon Torres. Despite providing his passport, social security card, and driver’s license to police officers to prove his citizenship, he was jailed for four days. The Sherriff’s Office deputies told Torres that every Hispanic person was being automatically held for immigration review. Yes, they’re rounding us up. Because we know, because we been knew, this was never about immigration status. This has always been about race. 

“Ramon Torres was held in jail for four days simply because he has brown skin and a Latino name,” ACLU of Louisiana legal director Katie Schwartzmann said. “This is racial profiling, which is unconstitutional and deeply harmful to our communities. What happened to Mr. Torres is inexcusable. Locking people up based on race or ethnicity is antithetical to our most cherished American values.”

We won’t be silenced.

There’s no sugar-coating what is happening in the United States. While it has never been the American Dream we were promised, now it is increasingly dangerous to be Latinx in America. Our stories and visibility matter most of all during this time. Art has the power to enlighten and normalize experiences. Art has a way of bringing the unseen to the forefront. This usually activates its viewers for the better. However, we have an administration that lacks any and all humanity. “Now we see life mimic art in the most destructive way,” she said. “I wish this were more of a fictional situation and we were exaggerating reality, but it’s kind of the other way around,” said Laura Gomez who plays Blanca, another character who falls victim to ICE on the show.

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Biden Administration Says Number Of Kids In Border Custody Drops 84% Over Last Month

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Biden Administration Says Number Of Kids In Border Custody Drops 84% Over Last Month

As recently as last month more than 5,000 children languished in jail-like conditions inside U.S. Border Patrol facilities, often for longer than the 72-hour limit set by federal law. But, according to the Biden administration, that number has dropped by 84% as the agencies charged with migrant detention make significant progress.

Questions remain, however, about where these children are being sent to instead and why there remains a need for jail-like conditions in the first place.

The number of kids in jail-like Border Patrol facilities drops 84% compared to March.

The number of unaccompanied migrant children held in jail-like conditions by US Customs and Border Protection dropped nearly 84% in the span of a month, according to a White House official. As of last Wednesday, there were 954 children in CBP facilities, down from a peak of 5,767 on March 28, the official told CNN.

The average time that kids are in CBP custody is now 28 hours, compared to 133 hours on March 28, the official said, a nearly 80% reduction in time spent in Border Patrol detention.

In an interview with NBC News this week, Biden suggested that the situation with unaccompanied children is now under control, saying, “It’s way down now. We’ve now gotten control,” and touted “significant change in the circumstances for children to and at the border.”

In recent weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the care of migrant children, has opened up a string of temporary shelters to accommodate minors. That’s allowed for an increasing number of children being transferred out of border facilities to spaces equipped to care for them at a quicker pace.

The drop in children in custody is a welcome sign given the conditions they faced.

In some cases, children were alternating schedules to make space for one another in confined facilities and taking turns showering, often going days without one, while others hadn’t seen the sunlight in days.

While the administration works to address root causes of migration, it’s also had to contend with growing numbers of children in government custody. As of April 27, there were more than 22,276 children in HHS care, according to government data.

Biden on NBC again warned Central American parents against sending children to the US.”Do not send your kids, period. They’re most — they’re in jeopardy going– making that thousand-mile trek,” Biden said. “And so what we’re doing now is we’re going back to those countries in question where most of it’s coming from and saying, ‘Look, you can apply from your country. You don’t have to make this trek.”

The shift in strategy comes as a new poll shows Americans overwhelmingly support new immigration policy.

A vast majority of Americans approve of the idea of engaging countries abroad to address the causes of migration before it happens, according to a new nationwide poll released Thursday.

Pollster Civiqs found that 85 percent of survey respondents agreed that the United States needs to engage with other countries to address migration patterns.

On a partisan basis, 86 percent of Democrats and 87 percent of Republicans, as well as 81 percent of independents, agree with that approach, according to Civiqs, which conducted the poll for Immigration Hub, a progressive immigration advocacy group.

The poll found that 57 percent of Americans accept illegal immigration when the immigrants are fleeing violence in their home countries.

That support is lower for undocumented immigrants who come for other reasons; 46 percent agree with immigrants arriving illegally to escape poverty or hunger, while 36 percent do if the migrants are seeking to reunite with family members, and 31 percent do if the migrants are looking for jobs in the United States.

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Three Years After Traumatic Deportation, Alejandra Juarez Will Be Reunited With Her Family

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Three Years After Traumatic Deportation, Alejandra Juarez Will Be Reunited With Her Family

Scenes of her traumatic deportation made headlines around the world as she was forced to say goodbye to her husband (a U.S. veteran) and children back in 2018. Now, Alejandra Juarez is headed back to the United States just in time to celebrate Mother’s Day with her family.

Alejandra Juarez is back with her family three years after her very public and traumatic deportation to Mexico.

The wife of a U.S. Marine veteran, Alejandra Juarez’s deportation to Mexico made international headlines as she was forced to say goodbye to her husband and daughters at Orlando International Airport back in 2018. Many Americans found her story to be so powerful since she was married to a retired U.S. Marine, Cuauthemoc ‘Temo’ Juarez and each of her children are U.S. citizens. Not to mention Juarez had been living in the United States since she was 18 years old.

Since her deportation in 2018, Juarez has been living in Mexico but will be allowed to return to Florida – where her family is located – within the next couple of days. Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security granted Juarez humanitarian parole

Juarez is the wife of a U.S. Marine veteran whose traumatic deportation scene at Orlando International Airport in 2018 made headlines worldwide. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security granted her a temporary reprieve known as humanitarian parole. Humanitarian parole allows entry to the country “due to an emergency” for someone who is otherwise not allowed to be in the country.

“This is the moment I’ve been waiting for,” Juarez told the Orlando Sentinel in an exclusive interview. “Once inside, I’m going to keep fighting and hopefully there’s a way I can find a permanent solution, but this is great!”

The emergency order allows Juarez to remain in the country until she finds a solution.

Florida Rep. Darren Soto (D) has been an advocate on behalf of the Juarez family and even joined Alejandra during her tearful goodbye to her family at the Orlando Airport.

According to report by the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, Soto said that his staff had sent a letter to his contacts at the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, and ICE officials, hoping they would reopen her case.

Around the same time, President Biden entered office and overturned the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy which had led to Alejandra’s deportation order. It’s also worth mentioning that Alejandra’s husband had voted for Donald Trump during the 2016 election without ever thinking that his wife could be targeted for deportation.

Congressman Soto has been a fighter for Alejandra while she’s been more than 700 miles away in Mexico and is proud to see justice for the Juarez family.

“When President Biden was elected, we knew there was a new hope of bringing her back,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. “But it was Alejandra overall, who showed the tenacity and determination to stop at nothing to get back to her family.”

Juarez’s story further captured our hearts and minds as part of a Netflix series.

Despite being hundreds of miles apart, the Juarez family has not remained silent. In fact, Alejandra’s story was told as part of the Netflix documentary series Living Undocumented. Juarez, along with seven other immigrants, clips of interviews with Juarez and Estela, 10, who talks about President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on deporting those in the country without permission.

“He was going to deport criminals, but my mom is not a criminal,” Estela says. “She’s a military wife.”

And daughter Estela even took her mother’s case to the presidential campaign, when she read a powerful letter to then-President Donald Trump detailing her mother’s case and the agony her family has suffered. Thankfully, now, the family will soon be reunited just in time to celebrate Mother’s Day together.

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