“Orange Is the New Black” Brings Powerful ICE Detention Stories to Its Seventh and Final Season – Teen Vogue

The seventh and final season of the hit Netflix series Orange Is the New Black features characters held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention.

At the end of season six, Blanca Flores (played by actress Laura Gómez) is detained by ICE almost immediately after she’s released from Litchfield Penitentiary. She ends up in a privately run ICE facility operated by PolyCon, the same fictional corporation that owns Litchfield. There, she runs into OITNB regular Maritza Ramos (Diane Guerrero). Before the season ends, Maritza is deported in a heart-rending portrayal of how the U.S. immigration system often plays out.

Guerrero told the Hollywood Reporter that she had guessed an immigration storyline might be coming and hoped her character would be involved in that plot line.

“I saw the seeds planted with Blanca and all I could do is say, ‘Please tell this story and I hope that I’m a part of it.’ And they called,” Guerrero said. “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.”

Writers made firsthand visits to immigration detention centers before production started last summer. Since then, troubling conditions at the facilities have only become more of a news item. As documented by Refinery29 and PopSugar, several of the obstacles the OITNB characters face are modeled off the real-life experiences of ICE detainees. PolyCon’s facilities serve as a fictional stand-in for the real-world companies that operate privately run ICE centers, like CoreCivic and the Geo Group.

“You felt they were in survival mode more than people that are in Litchfield,” executive producer Tara Herrmann told Variety. “These detainees have fewer rights and fewer social services than the inmates. There was absolutely zero personal belongings or any comfort factor for the detainees, and there is a lack of information. The main thing that is being broadcast is that they’re being held there by the United States of America, which is just disturbing and we wanted to say this doesn’t represent all of us.”

Guerrero praised the show’s writers for the thorough research that helped accurately realize the portrayal onscreen. Gómez was similarly impressed.

“They were looking for the truth and the humanization of these characters,” Gómez told the Hollywood Reporter. “I could sense that [show creator] Jenji [Kohan] and the writers were really going to deal with this issue in a very serious matter. And when they told me, I went, ‘OK, I get it now. We’re going for the jugular.’”

“We’re talking about what’s going on currently, and it’s in our news, so there’s the energy of that happening,” Gómez told TV Insider. “I didn’t expect it to go in this direction, but I was so grateful that they did, that they took what’s happening with urgency, and I think you can see it in season seven.”

Guerrero’s character, who has been absent since the season five finale, reappears at the ICE facility, explaining she was picked up during an ICE raid at a nightclub. As Gómez’s character settles in, she meets new characters in an ICE facility that comes off looking worse than the prison so familiar to longtime fans of the series.

When several inmates from Litchfield are assigned to kitchen duty at the ICE facility, a reunion with Maritza’s old friend Flaca (Jackie Cruz) leads to a startling revelation: Maritza herself wasn’t born in the U.S., as she’d always thought. But her Litchfield friends help her get the number of a pro bono immigration attorney, which she shares with other ICE detainees. Not long after that, she’s deported.