On Tuesday, California advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants sued the Trump administration for shutting down a hotline for detained immigrants less than two weeks after it was featured on the popular Netflix show Orange Is the New Black.
Freedom for Immigrants launched the National Immigration Detention Hotline in 2013 to help people in immigrant prisons and jails report abuse, connect with their families, and obtain legal resources. When ICE pulled the plug on the service in August, a spokesperson claimed it was because the line wasn’t approved by the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
Tuesday’s complaint, filed in Los Angeles federal court, alleges that the phone line was terminated as retaliation against the nonprofit, after it was featured prominently in an episode of the seventh season of OITNB, drawing attention to the organization’s criticisms of ICE.
“ICE shut down our hotline because we drew attention to the inhumanity of immigration detention,” said Freedom for Immigrants co-founder and executive Christina Fialho in a statement. “It is only the latest in a long pattern of retaliation against Freedom for Immigrants. Today, we have said no more.”
Prior to its shutdown, the free hotline, which was not monitored or recorded, received between 600 and 14,500 calls per moth, says the lawsuit. Since people in immigrant prisons are not allowed a free phone call, it provided a safe way for detained individuals to seek legal help or connect with family members.
Orange Is the New Black actress Laura Gómez, whose character was detained in an immigration center on the episode that featured the hotline, posted about the lawsuit on her Instagram on Tuesday.
“[Migrant Freedom and Christina Fialho] worked with @oitnb to provide an accurate portrayal of life inside #immigration detention and the show featured their national hotline on season 7,” she writes. “Then ICE shut down their hotline. They’re demanding the free hotline get reinstated. Please visit their page freedomforimmigrants.org and consider making a donation.”
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