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Immigrant Detention Hotline Featured in ‘OITNB’ Is Ordered Restored

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Hueston Hennigan, won a preliminary injunction for Freedom for Immigrants (FFI), and ordered the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to restore FFI’s National Immigration Detention Hotline (Hotline). The Hotline allows persons in immigration detention to report abuse, find resources, and bridge the divide between detained persons and their family and loved ones.

“The Court’s thorough and thoughtful preliminary injunction order affirms FFI’s First Amendment and Constitutional rights to be free from retaliation,” explained lead counsel Moez M. Kaba. “We are proud to work with FFI to protect fundamental First Amendment rights and reinstate their critical Hotline that has helped thousands of persons in immigrant detention report on the conditions of their confinement.”

In 2019, FFI partnered with the popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black (“OITNB”) to help portray the plight of persons detained in ICE facilities and increase public knowledge of the work that organizations like FFI do. Season 7 of OITNB prominently featured the Hotline, and press surrounding the July 2019 season premiere focused on the immigrant-centric storylines and FFI’s work. After first restricting the national Hotline to only certain facilities in Florida, ICE completely shut down the Hotline within two weeks of the premiere of OITNB Season 7.

Hueston Hennigan filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of FFI in December 2019 to reinstate FFI’s Hotline that ICE had shut down in retaliation for FFI’s exercise of First Amendment rights, advocating on behalf of persons in immigration detention.

In granting the preliminary injunction, Judge Birotte found that “FFI has shown that its speech was a substantial and motivating factor behind DHS’s shutdown of the Hotline,” and ordered that DHS stop “further interference with the operation of the free and confidential” Hotline and restore FFI’s Hotline at “all detention facilities operated , controlled, and/or overseen” by ICE.

As noted in the Hollywood Reporter, Mr. Kaba “praised the court for affirming the group’s ‘First Amendment and Constitutional rights to be free from retaliation.’”

FFI’s National Immigration Detention Hotline is the nation’s largest immigration detention hotline and staffed by a team of highly trained multilingual advocates across the country. Prior to the shutdown, FFI received over 10,000 calls per month from people in immigrant prisons and jails nationwide. FFI received calls from immigrants from 148 countries that spoke 80 different languages. Most calls came from people originally from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, India, and the Dominican Republic.

Freedom for Immigrants is represented pro bono by Moez M. Kaba, Rajan Trehan, and Ashley Artmann of Hueston Hennigan LLP.

Media coverage includes The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, ABCNews, San Francisco Chronicle, Law360 and others.