Immigration, one of the hot-button topics in Congress right now, hits close to home for “Orange is the New Black” actress Diane Guerrero.
“My real story is this: I am the citizen daughter of immigrant parents who were deported when I was 14. My older brother was also deported,” she wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times published on Nov. 15.
“My parents came here from Colombia during a time of great instability there,” she wrote. “Throughout my childhood I watched my parents try to become legal but to no avail. They lost their money to people they believed to be attorneys, but who ultimately never helped.”
The 28-year-old actress who was born in New Jersey said her biggest fear was that her parents would be deported and one day, her fears were realized.
“I came home from school to an empty house. Lights were on and dinner had been started, but my family wasn’t there,” she wrote. “Neighbors broke the news that my parents has been taken away by immigration officers.”
“I think about (that day) all the time,” a teary Guerrero told CNN over the weekend. “That day I had this feeling… It was really hard.”
“I broke down. I hid under the bed because I was afraid someone was going to come for me,” she continued. “I didn’t know who that someone was. I was just so scared.”
In her op-ed, Guerrero wrote that no government official or agency reached out to her to make sure she was OK and she relied on the kindness of friends and strangers. She said she considers herself lucky because she turned out better than most in the same situation.
Guerrero’s parents and brother are still in Colombia to this day and she visits them once a year.
“It’s tough. We’ve been separated for so long, I feel like sometimes we don’t know each other. It’s difficult,” she told CNN, tearing up. “I love them so much. I hate they have gone through this.”
Guerrero’s story is very common with families being broken apart by immigration. She urged the government to find a fair solution to immigration reform.
“I realize the issues are complicated. But it’s not just in the interest of immigrants to fix the system: It’s in the interest of all Americans,” the actress wrote in her op-ed. “Congress needs to provide a permanent, fail legislative solution, but in the meantime families are being destroyed every day, and the president should do everything in his power to provide the broadest relief possible now. Not one more family should be separated by deportation.”