'Orange Is the New Black' actors visit immigration detainees in New Jersey



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“Orange is the New Black” actors Vicci Martinez and Emily Tarver visit immigration detainees in New Jersey Monsy Alvarado, North Jersey

Two actors from the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” visited federal immigration detainees Thursday at a New Jersey jail. 

Vicci Martinez (who portrayed Dominga “Daddy” Duarte) and Emily Tarver (corrections officer Artesian McCullough) arrived early in the morning at the Hudson County jail to meet with two female detainees. The actors, whose show tackled issues of immigration detention and family separation in its final season, said they wanted to draw attention to the plight of immigrants in such detention facilities. 

“This is our first visit to a detention center and we want to know if they want to talk about it, what their experience is like and how they are feeling,” Martinez said before entering the jail, officially named the Hudson County Correctional and Rehabilitation Center. “The reason we are doing it is we want to help.”

Tarver said in order to contribute to change they needed to educate themselves about the country’s immigration detention system.

“Part of educating yourself is experiencing it and hearing their stories and seeing it with your eyes,” she said. “It’s the first step for us to get involved and by seeing the place, and seeing the people, I think it will give us a better direction on how our platform can spread awareness.”

The visit was organized by Freedom for Immigrants, an organization that aims to abolish immigration detention and which was featured in the final season of the show, and First Friends of New Jersey and New York, a nonprofit that sends volunteers to visit immigrant detainees held at facilities in both states.

Meeting detainees

The women visited with the detainees for about 30 minutes, talking with them about their personal experiences and how they ended up detained. 

After leaving, Tarver recounted the story of the Jamaican woman she met. She said the woman was a victim of domestic violence, and when she sought help from the police, her immigration status came into play and she wound up detained. The woman has been held for four months, Tarver said. 

“She is stoically hopeful, and I hope that court goes well for her this Tuesday,” Tarversaid. “Hopefully, I could move forward in advocating for their rights.”  

Martinez also met with a Jamaican woman who has been living in the United States for 30 years, but has been detained for two years. The woman is set to be released in a few weeks, she said.

Martinez said she was amazed by the woman’s positivity.

“She was encouraging me, even though I came to encourage her,” Martinez said. “She was really grateful for the visit.”

Martinez said she was inspired to make similar visits at other facilities in the future, and plans to return. 

“I’m going to go all over the country and do this, this was the beginning, and here we go,” she said.

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Since the first season of “Orange is the New Black” Bill Hoag of Nanuet has played the character Piper’s father. Seth Harrison/lohud, The Journal News/lohud

Fund created to help inmates

“Orange is the New Black” premiered on Netflix in 2013 and centers on life in prison for female inmates. The seventh and final season of the prison comedy-drama debuted last month.

At the same time the final season was released, the show’s creators launched a fund  to support groups pushing for criminal justice reform, as well as programs that help women re-enter society from prison and those that protect immigrants’ rights and end mass incarceration.

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