Warning: There are spoilers from Orange Is The New Black season 7 ahead.
After a serious lack of Maritza (Diane Guerrero) in Orange Is The New Black season 6, she’s returned for season 7, but finding out her fate ended up being one of the most heartbreaking moments in the series — and for a lot of people living in America right now, her storyline could end up hitting very hard and very close to home. What happened to Maritza on OITNB is a reality that so many immigrants are facing in the United States right now.
After Maritza and Flaca (Jackie Cruz) were forced to go to different prisons following the riot, she wasn’t heard from again. But in season 7, Maritza is out of prison — and seemingly living her best life (at first, anyway). She’s hanging out with her friend, spending her nights at the club, and even hooks up with an NBA player she starts to develop real feelings for. But then, it all comes crashing down during a simple night out.
While Maritza’s at a nightclub, she ends up being the victim of an ICE raid because she doesn’t have her ID on her. She’s taken to the ICE detention center run by Polycon (a.k.a. the company that runs Litchfield), where she runs into Blanca (Laura Gómez), who was taken there after her release. Maritza is convinced that getting out is as simple as proving that she’s an American citizen, but she doesn’t have her birth certificate. Thankfully, cell phones are constantly being smuggled into Litchfield, and when the original kitchen crew ends up cooking in the ICE kitchen, they find out that Maritza and Blanca have been detained and can help.
Unfortunately, once Gloria (Selenis Leyva) is able to get in touch with Maritza’s estranged mother, she finds out that Maritza was never an American citizen and her mother had lied to her all her life. After her immigration hearing, Martiza is deported, and after the image of Maritza on a plane dissipates into nothing, OITNB doesn't reveal what happens to her after that.
What happened on OITNB is pretty similar to the way it works in real life. According to the National Immigration Project, people who have been detained are fingerprinted and interviewed before being assigned a deportation officer and a Notice To Appear outlining the charges against them. From there, they’re sent to an immigration detention center like the one in Polycon, where they stay as they await their hearing.
Immigrants being detained don’t have the right to a free lawyer, but they are able to hire a lawyer, including one from a list of free counsel that their deportation officer can give them. They can also request a hearing to be let out on bond until their hearing. All detainees will have at least one hearing, and that’s where it will be determined what happens next.
If a judge orders someone to be deported, they are allowed to file for appeal within 30 days, or they can offer to voluntarily leave on their own flight and schedule via Voluntary Departure, according to Nolo. In some cases, people who are being deported will receive a letter letting them know when they’re leaving and how much baggage they can bring, and in others, they are simply deported without warning, and in OITNB, it seems Maritza was deported immediately following her hearing.
Her story seems to be one that’s close to the heart of the actor who plays Maritza. Guerrero is known for her activism and fighting for immigrants’ rights. In her book, In The Country We Love: My Family Divided, Guerrero revealed that she came home from school at age 14 to discover that her parents had been picked up by immigration agents, despite their attempts to become citizens.
Since then, Guerrero has been involved with organizations like Mi Familia Vota and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and in an interview with Washington Post in May, she said that she does have hope for the future — just not with the Trump administration in power:
"Children keep dying at the border and they’re not accounted for. Families are being separated. Immigration reform is long overdue, but I don’t think we’re going to see it with this administration, especially now that we’re seeing so many other civil rights taken away, with a woman’s right to an abortion in certain states. That’s something we thought, as women — as people — living in a democracy that would never happen."
Maritza’s story is hard to watch — and so are all of the ICE-related storylines this season — but it’s also an important story to be told. What she faces is reality for so many people living in America, and hopefully, seeing it play out on OITNB will encourage more people to get involved.