SPOILERS – In the final season of Orange is the New Black, prisoners in a detention centre for migrants used an emergency hotline until it was cut off by authorities. The American authorities seem to have been inspired by the fiction and have just shut down these hotlines in real detention centres.
The directors of Orange is the New Black certainly didn’t imagine that their fiction would inspire reality. However, that’s what has just happened, because the seventh and final season of the series set in an American women’s prison has led authorities in the country to take quite a radical measure.
In the final episodes of the long story of these women, locked up and judged as guilty for their crimes, some characters were transferred to migrant detention centres. These institutions have been at the heart of current news in the United States for months since Donald Trump has been going on about a ‘Mexican invasion’ on the United States borders and has been taking violent, punitive measures to prevent people from crossing the border. Because of this, thousands of people have been locked up in detention centres. Inside these structures, the quality of live is deplorable and inmates are deprived of food and water and are separated from their families, isolating mothers from their young children who are then left to their own devices…
Orange is the New Black shows one of these centres in the show, in which solidarity is organised as best as it can be. A telephone hotline is made available for the inmates so they can contact their families or even ask for legal help. But suddenly, people in charge of these centres decided to close down these phone lines.
Closure of the arbitrary line
This scene in the series gave the American immigration services an idea and shortly after the series was released, an association set up to help migrants had its phone line shut off without any explanation.
Cynthia M. Galaz, who managed one of these phone lines belonging to the group Freedom for Immigrants, explained the situation to the American media Jezebel.
‘We had a pro bono line that connected to a four-digit number, that was only accessible to people in detention. This number was a free and confidential resource for people to get in touch with us and report abuses. That line was shut down and blocked from people in detention to contact us. People in and out of detention can contact us via the 209 number, but it is neither a free, nor confidential number like the pro bono line was.’
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement services responded to these claims by stating that the inmates were illegally using this hotline and were engaging in multiple conversations.
‘The claim that this has anything to do with a TV show is pure fiction. The reality is that this group engaged in prohibited conduct,’ responded Bryan Cox, a spokesman for ICE to The Washington Post.