While actress Diane Guerrero is known for her compelling roles in Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, the 29-year-old is still haunted by a life-changing event that occurred 15 years ago.
Guerrero's parents were undocumented immigrants. She always feared that her parents would be deported someday, and then it finally happened when she was 14 years old.
"I came home from school to an empty house," Guerrero wrote in a 2014 Los Angeles Times op-ed. "Lights were on and dinner had been started, but my family wasn't there. Neighbors broke the news that my parents had been taken away by immigration officers. Not a single person at any level of government took any note of me. No one checked to see if I had a place to live or food to eat, and at 14, I found myself basically on my own."
Guerrero's chilling story of family separation is anything but unique. United We Dream, a pro-immigration reform youth-led organization, estimates that over 300,000 people, including parents and siblings, were deported in 2014. Most of them, the organization says, received no due process, no option for bail and may have been isolated for years in detention.
That is why Guerrero recently teamed up with United We Dream and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) for a campaign to create a sense of urgency around making changes to our immigration system and to stop the practice of tearing families apart.
The campaign featured a YouTube video where Guerrero spoke about her story and called for action to end the deportation process. "We can and must do better," she said in the video.
"Diane's story is not unique and exposes the harsh human toll of policies focused on deportations, incarceration, and immigration enforcement," Grisel Ruiz, a staff attorney at the ILRC, wrote to A Plus. "This video is meant to educate people on what is likely happening in their own backyard and encourage them to call on local and national leaders to stand up to policies that criminalize immigrant communities."
In the video, Guerrero spoke about recent policies that were targeted at the immigrant community, and at families like hers.
"Some lawmakers are proposing drastic and harsh new laws that will pave the way for more intolerance, more deportation and more family separation," she said. "We need your help. Please join me by contacting our members of Congress, and our local and state leaders to stand with us by condemning policies that separate families and destroy our communities."
The video ends with a plea to sign a petition to end deportations and immigrant detention.