CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA – Television actress Diane Guerrero is using her personal story of her parent’s deportation to rally Latino voters to register to vote.
The immigration activist said now is the time for Latinos to make their voices heard.
“I think a lot of people are worried and Latinos are very worried, I think,” she said of the upcoming elections. “I think in the past we thought our voices really didn’t matter and our vote doesn’t count. But as I meet more people in this fight I am assured that it does.”
The television actress from “Orange is the New Black” and “Jane the Virgin” is fighting for the cause that is close to her heart, one that has brought her great heartache in the past but has also helped her find a new passion.
In her book “In the Country We Love: My Family Divided,”Guerrero chronicles her personal and emotional journey of having to start a new life after her parents were deported when she was 14 years old.
At a book reading Thursday night in Coral Gables, Florida, Guerrero addressed the upcoming elections and took questions from the audience. Among them was a well-known immigration lawyer with a nonprofit firm that advocates for immigrant rights.
“Stories like yours can make such a difference, I believe, because a lot of people I talk to have no idea that people like you have these stories, and it can make such a difference,” said Cheryl Little, the executive director and co-founder of Americans for Immigrant Justice. “I’m a lawyer and I can tell you that your story can make so much more of a difference than the work I’ve done over the years.”
When asked about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Guerrero used her best Donald Trump impression to respond: “A huuuuge wall, it’s going to be beautiful...made of gold.” She then added that although many Americans may be preparing for a Trump presidency and agree with his views on immigration, “I am not afraid because I really can’t accept that a majority of this country feels that way. I just think it’s up to us to keep reminding people that their vote is important, that their participation is important.”
With over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., Guerrero is taking a public stance and pushing for immigration rights as an ambassador for citizenship and naturalization for the White House as well as a volunteer with Mi Familia Vota (My Family Votes), a nonprofit organization that encourages Latinos to become citizens and register to vote. She has also teamed up with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
Guerrero was just 14 when her parents were detained and deported while she was at school living in Boston. Her parents had been working to get citizenship at the time, but they were sent back to Colombia. Since Guerrero was born in the U.S., she was able to stay with family friends and build a new life.
At the book signing, she said she never felt comfortable talking “about this huge thing that happened to me.”
That was until 2014, when she wrote an op-ed for The Los Angeles Times and ended her silence.
“Neighbors broke the news that my parents had been taken away by immigration officers, and just like that, my stable family life was over,” she wrote.
It has been 15 years since her parents were deported, but Guerrero is still reliving the heartache as she reads from her book.
“I will always remember that prison waiting room,” she began the reading, stopping at times to poke fun of herself. She continued to read on, describing how she had to bite down on her lip “to keep the tears from escaping when she saw her ‘mami.’ “It didn’t work,” she read, slowly tearing up, along with some in the audience.
Guerrero said she has since gathered the paperwork needed to begin the legal process to unite her family once again. Until then, she is using her story to unite other Hispanic families and show them that “there is still light at the end of the tunnel.”
"In the Country We Love: My Family Divided" is available in all major bookstores and on Amazon. It is also available in Spanish, "En El Pais Que Amamos."