ICE Shut Down An Immigration Hotline After It Was Featured On ‘Orange Is The New Black’


Orange Is The New Black‘s run of seven seasons is officially over, though it will remain on Netflix until the heat death of the universe. Despite it all being over, the OITNB continues to have a real-life impact on the world outside of the Netflix show.

A fund based on one created in hoNOR of Poussey Washington, a character from the show, is now real and will help various charities helping incarcerated women in America. And many of the show’s plot points provided real insight into issues others in America currently deal with. One of those is immigration and, unfortunately, attention from the show may have caused some real harm for detained immigrants.

In the fifth episode of the show’s final season (spoilers), Maritza is in an immigrant detention center and learns about a free hotline she can call to get a lawyer. But Gloria warns her that the hotline is sensitive.

“You have to be careful, though,” Gloria says. “Apparently if they figure out that you’re using the hotline, Big Brother shuts it down.”

And according to the Los Angeles Times, that’s exactly what happened. The paper reported on Friday that Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE) shut down the hotline after it was mentioned on the show.

The hotline was featured as part of the immigrant detention plot in the show’s seventh season, which was released July 26. After two longtime characters end up in deportation proceedings, they learn that immigrants don’t have the right to a free phone call after they are detained. Out of money, they learn about the Freedom for Immigrants hotline and start passing out the number to others in the facility.

“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.

ICE did not respond to a request for comment from the paper, but apparently advocacy groups and people from Orange Is The New Black have signed a petition to get the hotline restored.

Freedom for Immigrants, which runs visitation programs in detention centers across the country, responded Thursday with a cease-and-desist letter charging that the termination is a violation of free speech and amounts to retaliation by the government in an attempt to silence one of its prominent critics. Six actors from “Orange Is the New Black” and more than 100 organizations signed a letter to acting ICE Director Matthew Albence demanding that the line be restored.

The Freedom for Immigrants hotline had been operating since 2013 and the group said some months volunteers handled more than 14,000 calls. Reinstating it would be a small concession when considering the immigration crisis that’s been created at large, but it also could be a significant lifeline for those detained that’s been taken away, possibly because of the attention the show’s final season gave the hotline’s existence.