America Ferrera has never been a celebrity to stay quiet in the face of injustice, so it’s no surprise that the actress-activist has boldly responded to the Trump administration’s policy requiring migrants seeking asylum in the United States to wait in Mexico.
Last week, the Superstore star led a group of actors, including Gina Rodriguez, Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, Wilmer Valderrama, Roselyn Sanchez and Kendrick Sampson, across the southern border to a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico.
There, the group learned how the policy was impacting migrants while speaking directly with immigration lawyers and shelter managers as well as families and children. They hope through this real-life education that they will become better equipped to challenge the Trump administration in the US.
“It is easy for me to look at these human beings and see myself. … This could very easily have been my reality in this lifetime,” the Honduran-American actress told the Associated Press about the trip.
The “Remain in Mexico” policy limits the amount of asylum requests border patrol can attend to per day. The process, which has also forced refugees, including thousands of Central American families who have filed for sanctuary from violence and poverty in their home countries, to stay in Mexico, has slowed down the process and created case backlogs in the immigration system and overcrowding in shelters in Mexican border towns.
“We were able to bear witness to how the current administration is treating refugee families. We MUST demand better,” Washington said in an Instagram post. “Let me be clear: it is legal to seek asylum. When people cross our borders, their human rights come with them. We must protect those human rights.”
Season 7 of “Orange Is The New Black” exposed several truths about ICE detention facilities and the struggles that jailed migrants face. From the lack of resources to the separation of children from parents, the Netflix original series was incredibly on point about these travesties that are being perpetrated with the permission of the United States government.
One of the major themes that impacted Maritza, Blanca and the other ICE detainees in the series was their inability to contact anyone for help. In the episodes, it was impossible for the women to call friends, family or lawyers for assistance without a phone card. Phone cards required cash. Each minute cost about $3 per minute. When the characters did have money for a card, the kiosk to buy the phone cards and stamps was broken. Essentially, they were trapped without the ability to call or write for help.
In order to combat this problem, the women of Spanish Harlem find a free number that the detainees can use and, as it turns out, the number and the organization it contacts is real.
Twitter / @dianeguerrero_
In Season 7, Gloria and Flaca find a number for the real immigration assistance charity, Freedom for Immigrants. Back in 2010, attorney Christina Fialho and cultural anthropologist Christina Mansfield co-created California’s first visitation program at the West County Detention Facility. From there, the organization grew to include other facilities.
Their visitation program joined forces with four other similar programs to become a non-partisan, non-profit organization called Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC). This organization would later change its name to Freedom for Immigrants and would continue to help jailed migrants get access to the outside world.
In 2015, the program started its own national hotline that connects people in these detention facilities with volunteers and resources who can help.
Twitter / @MirgantFreedom
The organization sometimes receives as many as 14,000 calls per month from migrants from 148 different countries who speak over 80 different languages. The hotline is completely free and offers help to those who couldn’t otherwise afford the detention facilities’ expensive calls. Just like in Season 7 of “Orange Is The New Black,” the hotline helps connect detainees with pro bono legal services.
In the series, Maritza and Flaca write down Freedom for Immigrant’s hotline in order to distribute it to other detainees. However, Gloria cautions against getting too involved for fear of retaliation against the women. Sure enough, Maritza is soon deported as soon as the guards catch on to her actions.
Unfortunately, this same retaliation was aimed at Freedom for Immigrants last year and it limited the organization’s ability to help their migrant clients.
Twitter / @MigrantFreedom
Although visitors have the right to pass out their number to detainees, members of Freedom for Immigrants have always been cautious when passing out their hotline number. They were aware that guards and officials were not supportive of a free line to the outside. In 2018, ICE blocked access to Freedom for Immigrants number in their facilities. This occurred after volunteers for the program refused to sign away their rights to speak to the media about conditions inside the centers.
Blocking their number impacted the organization’s ability to offer support to the ICE detainees. The migrants already had such little help and contact with the outside world. By blocking Freedom of Immigrant’s number, ICE officials completely took away access to the outside world and all hope they had for freedom.
This isn’t the first bout of retaliation that the organization has experienced.
Twitter / @MsLauraGomez
Back in 2013, ICE shut down three visitation programs that Freedom for Immigrants was affiliated with. This happened following a Huffington Post editorial that the organization wrote about conditions of these facilities. In the past, ICE has also blocked the personal cell phone numbers of volunteers to further isolate detainees from the outside world. In the meantime, donors to the Freedom for Immigrants organization have helped volunteers spread calling cards to detainees as the nonprofit continues to fight to have their number unblocked.
While free people outside of these facilities can survive threats and retaliation, migrants trapped in detention do not have the same freedoms and assurances.
Twitter / @democracynow
When jailed migrants are caught attempting to access these helpful services, they also face retaliation. Just like Maritza, they have to worry about threats of deportation. Isolation, violence and transfers to other centers are also tactics used against detainees to keep them compliant.
Ultimately, ICE does not want these migrants to have any access to the outside world. They don’t want them to have help or hope. “Orange Is The New Black” is obviously a work of fiction but the series got this detail right and it’s painful to see. However, we can’t look away. To look away would be a disservice to the jailed migrants and the volunteers trying to free them.
You can help further the cause of Freedom for Immigrants by volunteering or donating here.
For decades, Mexico has been one of the main destinations for global tourism. The country offers amazing beaches where visitors can find both natural beauty and experienced hospitality workers who make their living by providing unforgettable experiences. We have selected 13 beaches that can cater for any kind of visitor and for budgets of all sizes. Remember that old Corona ad, “From where you would rather be”? Well, we would rather be in one of these slices of heaven.
1. Costa Careyes Located in: Jalisco Good for: high end, luxury traveling, honeymoons
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This relatively recent development is located in the Mexican state of Jalisco, so you can also visit the city of Guadalajara or the many tequila haciendas in the region. This beach is pristine and hasn’t been developed as much as classics such as Acapulco or Cancun. It is pricey, but ideal for a romantic getaway or a honeymoon… you might leave the room for a bit just to witness the stunning sunsets. You can find more details here: https://www.careyes.com/.
2. Puerto de Veracruz Located in: Veracruz, Gulf of Mexico Good for: old fashioned Mexican charm
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Veracruz is one of the oldest cities in Mexico, the port where the Spanish started the development of the new colony. The old port has been revitalized in recent years, and you can experience the charm of jarochos: you can smoke a cigar while sipping a cafe con leche in the traditional La Parroquia. You can also listen to nostalgic regional son jarocho or join old folks in a communal dance known as danzon.
3. Bahia de Los Angeles Located in: Baja California Good for: those who love the stunning desert/ocean combo
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Less developed than beach towns such as La Paz and Los Cabos. This is a dream for those who love the combination of desert and sea. The Gulf of California bathes beaches that are red and feature spectacular rock formations crowned by cacti and succulents that defy the laws of gravity. A surreal but soothing destination.
4. Isla Holbox Located in: Quintana Roo, Yucatan Peninsula Good for: just relaxing on a hammock as the waves caress the sand
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This island north of the Yucatan Peninsula is truly heaven on earth. It is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, so it is not highly developed. The island is separated from the mainland by a lagoon which features flamingos and pelicans. Good to know: no cars are allowed on the island.
5. Isla Mujeres Located in: the Caribbean Sea, near Cancun Good for: snorkeling and scuba diving
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Another paradisiac highlight in the Yucatan Peninsula. This island has amazing beaches such as Playa Norte, plenty of resorts and scuba diving and snorkeling experiences. Even though it only has 4.22 km², it has it all: a lighthouse, Mayan ruins and even a sanctuary for sea turtles.
6. Puerto Vallarta Located in: Jalisco Good for: going out and sleeping in!
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This traditional beach destination captivated filmmaker John Huston when he shot The Night of the Iguana here. Elizabeth Taylor, who was tagging along with her then-husband Richard Burton, also fell in love with the dramatic landscape, food and good vibes of this awesome place, which is also famous for its vibrant nightlife. A perfect alternative for those who find Cancun and Los Cabos to be just a bit too touristy. It is near the Tequila region, so a little stop is in order.
7. Mazunte Located in: Oaxaca Good for: cheap and low key hippie vibes
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This has been the de facto destination for Mexico City natives that just want to relax by the beach and eat some delicious Oaxacan food. Even though it is now a bit more developed than some would wish, it still retains a mystic but relaxed atmosphere. People feel so at ease that it is sort of a nudist beach: if that is your thing, clothes away! Seriously, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
8. Mazatlan Located in: Sinaloa Good for: spectacular scenery and delicious seafood, Sinaloa style
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An oldie but goodie. This resort town borders the Pacific shoreline in the state of Sinaloa. It was an impressive boardwalk or malecon that covers 21 km. Old Mazatlan is a 19th-century colonial jewel with gorgeous architecture. If you are into big-game fishing, this is the place to be. You can also eat some amazing Sinaloa seafood. A taco gobernador, anyone? (if you are wondering, it has shrimp, black beans, a secret spicy sauce, and melted cheese, all in corn tortillas of course!).
9. Playa Ventura Located in: Guerrero Good for: relaxing times and amazing food in a rustic environment
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Near the legendary but now dangerous Acapulco lies this beach which is visited by turtles and offers a rustic experience. Food is just great: pescado a la talla and lobster smothered in chili and butter. What is not to like? We hope it keeps that rustic feel and that development doesn’t translate into big resorts.
10. Los Cabos Located in: Baja California Sur Good for: sea life watching
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A classic destination full of top-end resorts, but also the home of a charming town and plenty of spectacular animal sightings. You can take a whale watching tour or watch seals basking in the Baja sun. There are of course plenty of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. And by the way, you might spot one of the many Hollywood A-listers who have made Cabo their preferred holiday spot. While you are here, why not rent a car and travel up the Baja peninsula all the way to the wine region near Ensenada?
11. Punta Cometa and Playa Mermejita Located in: Oaxaca Good for: thinking about la inmortalidad del cangrejo
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On the way to the charming Playa Mermejita (in Mazunte, see above) you can stop at this spot, which offers the most romantic sunset on Earth. You can also stare at the ocean and the beach and think about your life: nothing like being away from the tribulations of your daily life to reflect on where you are going.
12. Playa Pichilinguillo Located in: Michoacan Good for: unadulterated natural experiences
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White sands, tame waves, and blue waters. This is a playa virgen that totally gives us TheBlue Lagoon vibes. It is ideal to scuba dive or snorkel, as waters are almost transparent and fish are still unafraid of humans. The lobster here is delicious. Plus, you will be helping the local economy thrive as it is not yet subject to big transnational resort companies.
13. Playa del Carmen Located in: Quintana Roo Good for: a good mix of relaxing and fiesta!
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People who got sick and tired of how gringo Cancun looks have moved their business to Playa del Carmen, which started out as a “poor relative” and is now a hot spot for nightlife and glorious days at the beach. It attracted European tourism early, so there are plenty of culinary options as some visitors just decided to stay and open their own restaurants! Prices have peaked recently, but it is still a great option for those who believe that Cancun’s best days have passed.