Walking on thin ICE

Janna Marnell

Freedom for Immigrants, a national hotline based in California for detained immigrants, was shut down less than two weeks after it was featured in the final season of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.”

Like any TV show, there are some things that are not 100% accurate. “Orange is the New Black” (OITNB) is one of those TV shows.

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“The creators of OITNB put a lot of effort into making the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center look accurate,” reported www.gothamist.com. “The writers toured a facility in California. They used this to create story lines for old and new characters we meet in Season 7. One actress, Diane Guerrero, even had her own real-life family experience with deportation.”

In season seven, Maritza Ramos, acted by Diane Guerreo, was arrested in a nightclub during an ICE raid. Since she was just released from Litchfield Federal Prison, it was very difficult for former inmates to attain a valid state ID.

When the raid happened, Maritza was unable to get away and an ICE officer forcibly held her down while she screamed she was an American citizen. Since she had no ID there was no way to validate her claim.

ICE looks for undocumented immigrants, but are more likely to judge people based on what they look like. Since Maritza is Hispanic, they assumed she was indeed an undocumented immigrant.

“If you are in a public space like that and ICE approaches you, you do have the right to remain silent,” Amy Belsher, a staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union told www.gothamist.com “By revealing information that you’re not properly documented, you could then become a collateral arrest.”

There has been very little coverage on the shutdown of the hotline. We, as viewers, needed to know what really happens inside these detention centers. Detainees in these centers are unable to use the phone unless they have the money to do so. However, if their families have no idea they are there, then how are they supposed to get the means to get any sort of legal help.

Unfortunately, immigration court is anything but close to this country’s criminal court system. ICE will not provide a free lawyer for you to go over your case and prove that you need or can stay in this country. This is even true for children that are being deported alone without their family to a country they are unfamiliar with.

“I was once in a courtroom where a child who looked to be about seven years-old stepped up,” Nicolette Glazer, an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles, told www.gothamist.com. “And the judge asked the kid for his name and the kid didn’t respond.”

Just as the adults are scared about the deportation process, think about the children who really do not know what is going on. They do not know anything about the legal process or even their citizen status.

“It’s practically impossible to do something as simple as place a phone call without money or without someone on the outside helping you, which is why Freedom for Immigrants’ hotline is so critical” said Vicci Martinez, who played “Daddy” on OITNB in response to the shut down reported www.themuse.jezebel.com. “We stand with Freedom for Immigrants and urge ICE to restore their hotline immediately.”

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimated 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants resided in the United States in 2016.

About half of all unauthorized immigrants resided in three states: California (27 %), Texas (14 %) and New York (8 %) according to MPI.

One week after Trump took office in 2017 he issued directives that by “all lawful means” be used to deport anyone in violation of immigration laws, with no exceptions.

I understand that there is an increased support by constituents, since Trump took office, to deport all illegal immigrants.

However, there is a better way to do so then to put them in detention centers, take their right for a fair trial away by not providing a lawyer and not treating them as humans.

Many undocumented and illegal immigrants come here for various safety reasons. Many seek asylum due to war, sex trafficking, drug abuse and other dehumanizing situations.

Who are we to deny these people of safety and happiness? Where is the American dream that our ancestors once had?

The president, government and ICE is hiding their true intentions on the shut downs of pro-bono agencies and nonprofits helping the humans going through the detention center.