Warning: Spoilers ahead for Orange Is the New Black.
The seventh and final season of Orange Is the New Black is now on Netflix and it was episode 5, titled "Minority Deport," the one that made a lasting impact on us. In that episode, Diane Guerrero is back as Maritza Ramos (after being absent on season six), with a storyline that, unfortunately, is far from fiction for many immigrants under the Trump administration.
Maritza, who at some point during season six's timeline must have been released from prison, is at a bar when an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid takes place. Although she claims she is a US citizen, she doesn't have identification on her to prove it so she's taken to a detention centre. There, Maritza finds out that she was born in Colombia and brought to the US by her mother as a child — a fact her mom had hidden from her until now. Her friends in the detention centre, including her BFF Flaca, try to help by connecting her with an immigrant-rights organisation, but when she starts giving out the number to the other detainees so they too can get help, ICE agents at the detention centre rush her deportation.
It's the scene where Maritza is handcuffed and boarding an aeroplane full of other immigrants facing deportation that had us in tears. Can you imagine leaving the country you have known as home your entire life without having the chance to say goodbye to friends and family? Maritza didn't get her day in court to prove her citizenship or a chance to get a lawyer, yet she's being expelled to a country that is foreign to her, a reality that many deportees are living in the United States right now.
Just a month before the seventh season of Orange Is the New Black premiered on Netflix, the Trump administration announced that it's expanding its expedited removal process, which allows federal agents to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants without a hearing before a judge, to anyone who "cannot prove they have been in the United States for more than two years," according to The New York Times. Up until recently fast-track deportations were reserved for those migrants who had only been in the US for a couple a weeks and within 100 miles of the southwestern border.
Royce Murray, a manageing director of the American Immigration Council, told The New York Times that this "show me your papers law" is a "burden on the individual to prove that expedited removal does not apply to them," adding that the expedited process doesn't give detainees a chance, while in custody, to prove their status.
This expedited process seems to be what affected Maritza in OITNB. She was detained for not having an identification card on her and was not given the opportunity to show she had been in the United Stats for most of her life in front of a judge.
In an opinion piece on The New York Times, Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, explains the main shortcoming with the expedited process in a clear way: "immigration officers serve as both prosecutor and judge — charging someone as deportable and making a final decision to deport him, often all within a day." This can lead to agents not informing detainees if they're "eligible to apply for lawful status in the United States," as an immigration judge would have to do.
As we know, these expedited deportations often lead to family separations. According to a study by Kaiser Family Foundation, children who have been separated from their parents due to deportation have increased mental health issues that can have lifelong effects. "My youngest daughter is destroyed emotionally, devastated. She cries, dreams about it. She wants her dad and doesn't have him," the spouse of a deported individual told KFF.
The actress who plays Maritza, Diane Guerrero, knows exactly what it feels to be separated from family members. As a teen, Diane, an advocate for immigration rights, came back home from school to find her parents had been detained, and a few months later they were deported back to Colombia, leaving Diane behind to stay with friends.
"It's a story that we can all relate to," Diane told POPSUGAR. "This country is made up of immigrants, and the immigrant story isn't foreign to anybody [...] that's the point of sharing my story, that we can all find a common thread in order to be motivated to make a change, whether it's by voting, helping immigrant families, joining organisations that support immigrant right activists, and continuing to represent the immigrant community in the way that they deserve, as hard-working people, as people who make this country better."
If you ever find yourself in a raid, like Maritza did in OITNB, know you have rights. According to the ACLU, "you have the right to a hearing to challenge a deportation order, unless you waive your right" by signing a Stipulated Removal Order or voluntarily leaving. The ACLU also states that you have the right to a lawyer, although the government does not have to provide one. If you don't have one, you have the right to "ask the court to allow you time to find one".