Calls are ongoing for the reopening of a toll-free hotline for detained immigrants that was shut down after it was featured in a episode of Orange Is The New Black.
The California-based Freedom for Immigrants says the hotline was shut down on August 7, about two weeks after the July 26 premiere of the final season of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black. It had been featured in the fifth episode of the final season, in which Maritza, played by Diane Guerrero, who has been detained by ICE, discovers a toll-free hotline she can call to get a free lawyer. As she joyfully tells Gloria about the hotline, Gloria quickly warns her, “You have to be careful, though. Apparently if they figure out that you’re using the hotline, Big Brother shuts it down.”
And lo and behold, that’s what happened, in real-life.
The hotline had been featured in a various other episodes as well.
“The timing of the shutdown is deeply concerning. Freedom for Immigrants is being targeted for exposing abuses in detention and amplifying the stories of people suffering in the system” said Christina Fialho, an attorney and executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, in a statement.
The organization, which runs visitation programs in detention centers across the country, responded last week with a cease-and-desist letter to acting ICE Director Matthew Albence alleging that the termination is a violation of free speech and amounts to retaliation, and demanding that the hot line be restored.
“We are heartbroken to hear about the shutdown of this hotline,” said Vicci Martinez, one of the actors who signed the letter. Martinez played Daddy in the Netflix prison drama. “We stand with Freedom for Immigrants and urge ICE to restore their hotline immediately.” OITNB actresses Diane Guerrero and Laura Gómez, who played Maritza and Blanca respectively, also signed the letter to ICE.
In response, an ICE official told NBC News in a statement that “all ICE facilities provide detainees with reasonable and equitable access to telephones.”
Detainees are allowed to “make free calls to an ICE-approved list of free legal service providers for the purpose of obtaining initial legal representation,” but three-way calling and call forwarding are “strictly prohibited,” ICE told the network.