‘Orange Is the New Black’ Tackles ICE Detention Centers and Immigration in Final Season


After seven successful seasons on Netflix, Orange Is the New Black is wrapping up with a binge-worthy final season focusing on immigration and immigrant detention centers. In season 7, OITNB doesn’t shy away from showcasing the inhumane treatment of women in detention centers through two of its core characters.

In case you missed it, in the season six finale, Dominicana Blanca Flores (played by actress Laura Gómez) was seemingly being released from Litchfield maximum security prison – along with Piper (Taylor Schilling) – but as soon as she steps foot outside, she’s instantly transferred to an immigrant detention center.

WARNING: This story contains spoilers 

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The final season picks up with Flores in Litchfield’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center. Throughout the series, we learn that Flores has been transferred to numerous detention centers, hasn’t been able to reach her fiancé to update him on her whereabouts and vice versa, and she doesn’t have a lawyer to help with her case.

Gómez spoke to Pop Culture about the final season of OITNB and of her character’s harrowing immigration storyline. She said it was “heartbreaking, but also humanizing.”

Throughout the season, Flores becomes friends with another detainee Carla, who is waiting to be reunited with her two children. During the series finale, Flores can be seen celebrating with her lawyer once she realizes she’s obtained her green card once again and can then be seen traveling to Honduras to reunite with her fiancé who was also detained and deported earlier in the season.

“This is really happening for people and as painful as it was for the audience to see this, and as difficult it was for us to portray it, I always think … but people are actually living through this. Families are actually being separated. Husbands are actually left with flowers waiting for their partner. That never goes out. So I feel like this is why this show is so important,” she adds.
The new for-profit ICE detention center that’s introduced in the show’s last season becomes the place where various storylines develop and where viewers witness the inhumane results of immigrant detention.

“Jenji came in at the beginning of season six stating that one of the clear things she wanted to do was address immigration detention centers — that’s something she was adamant about,” co-executive producer Brian Chamberlayne told The Hollywood Reporter last year referring to show creator Jenji Kohan.

The final season also marks the return of the Colombian actress Diane Guerrero playing the beloved Maritza Ramos, along with other families faces from past seasons. Martiza’s five-episode storyline concludes with Ramos being deported back to Colombia after she finds out that her mother had lied to her about being born in the U.S. Guerrero has also personally been affected by similar experiences. She’s been vocal about her parents’ deportation back to Colombia and living on her own since she was 14-years-old.

“Immigration and detention centers are multiplying in this country and with what we’ve seen at the border and the separation of families and our current administration’s inhumane laws, I thought it was super important to tell this story as Maritza,” Guerrero told The Hollywood Reporter. 

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But the OITNB showrunners aren’t just shining a spotlight on the immigration crisis through the series, they’ve also established The Poussey Washington Fund – named after the beloved character played by Samira Wiley– that’ll allow viewers  to contribute to a GoFundMe/CrowdRise campaign benefiting a number of organizations including: A New Way of Life: Reentry ProjectAnti Recidivism CoalitionCollege & Community Fellowship, Freedom For ImmigrantsImmigrant Defenders Law CenterThe National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Woman and GirlsunPrison Project and the Women’s Prison Association. All organizations are working toward protecting immigrant rights, ending mass incarceration, and fighting for criminal justice reform and supporting women affected by incarceration.

“It’s something that requires paying attention to, educating yourself about and being proactive. Seeing the most innocent cases, like Maritza’s, or even cases where there is some sort of criminality happening, this system isn’t working for anyone,” Guerrero told The Hollywood Reporter. “I hope this brings some light to that and that people can have a clear understanding of what the immigration system looks like in this country, acknowledge it is broken and know that they have a huge responsibility in helping to fix it.”

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