Season 7 of Orange is the New Black opened the series' usual world of private prisons up to another form of detainment in the United States: immigration detention centers. The audience saw several characters, including Maritza (Diane Guerrero) struggle to fight their way out of the despicable conditions and halt their deportation process. It's tough to watch a favorite character like Martiza suffer so much, and the storyline is even more heartbreaking because it explores a reality for countless people. In fact, Martiza's Orange is the New Black immigration story is deeply personal for Guerrero, because it mirrors some events in her own life. Warning: Spoilers for Season 7 of Orange is the New Black follow.
After Maritza didn't appear at all in Season 6 of Orange is the New Black, the audience was reintroduced to her in Season 7 as a free woman no longer in prison. However, that freedom was short-lived. Martiza happened to be in a club the night of an ICE raid, and she was taken to an immigration detention center. The storyline was very similar to a real-life experience for Guerrero: When she was 14 years old, she returned home from school to discover her parents had been deported to Colombia.
Guerrero talked to Vanity Fair about the devastating moment she realized her family was gone. She said:
I just thought my life was over. There’s this feeling of loss, and it’s so horrible to think that a child is in this state of limbo of saying, Okay, now what happens with me?
That same pain was reflected in Maritza's Orange is the New Black story. Guerrero thought it was important for the story to be told as accurately as possible on the show. That way, it could better shed light on the current immigration issues that are affecting people today. She said:
Considering everything that’s happening in our country and the heated debates about who a human is, I really wanted to take the opportunity to humanize these stories. I thought it was brave, and they sure did their research.
Guerrero remembers details of her parents' detention and deportation that have stuck with her all these years. She said:
Visiting my dad, and my dad not having any toothpaste…my mother not having any sanitary napkins. Those kinds of things are very real. I remember being a little girl and talking to my mom through a glass window…I remember how heartbreaking it was.
At the end of Maritza's Season 7 storyline, she was not granted U.S. citizenship and was instead deported. In her last scene, Martiza was aboard an airplane that would presumably take her to Colombia. She and the other people aboard the plane slowly faded away, just like they'll fade out of life in America. It's sad on Orange is the New Black, and it's even sadder when it happens every day in real life.
With this fact in mind, the team behind Orange is the New Black set up the Poussey Washington Fund, which in part provides funding to organizations that support and defend immigrants. You can donate to the fund here.
Season 7 of Orange is the New Black is available on Netflix now.