Diane Guerrero was just 14 years old when her parents and brother were arrested and deported while she was at school. Born in the U.S., she was able to remain in this country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career. I had the chance to talk to Diane about her career, life and much much more, the full interview can be found here.
‘Being undocumented’ doesn’t make someone less human than you, I am American as much as I am Latina.’ Diane said when asked about ‘the message she’d like to get across.’ Although she is an American citizen, she always felt out of place because of her parents’ status, both are undocumented immigrants from Colombia who moved to Boston to ‘help her and her brother get a better life,’ but things have always been tough for her and her family. She recounts her journey and her experiences with depression, deportation and attempted suicide. In our interview, we talked about her personal experiences with immigration and how much she wished someone would’ve seen that her parents weren’t criminals, that they had dreams, ambitions, and above all, love for this country. ‘It’s not right.’ I just wish more people could see ‘we’re human,’ Diane said before telling me how she felt forgotten and to this day she wonders whether they (the immigration police) remember her? ‘Did they ever think that they (her mom and dad) had a daughter? Did they ever think of me?’ Her story of her parent’s deportation goes beyond what you can find online. I bought her book a week before the interview and wanted to read it as soon as I could. When I finally got around to it, I did not want to put it down. What we read online about her story is a simplified version of the MANY deportations and troubles Diane has had to face and just a glimpse of the incredible amount of strength and resilience Diane possesses. She talks about the prison visits with her parents and seeing her mom and dad at ‘their lowest’ point, she recalls her ‘mom losing 15 pounds in two weeks and her dad’s teeth completely yellow.’ It hurt her having to witness her parents’ struggle so much and visiting her parents in prison haunted her for the years to come. Recalling these memories I wondered whether the experiences she had influenced her acting career and chimed in whether she ‘felt prepared for the success she has today.’
Without hesitation, she jumped in with a big, ‘YES!’ “I feel like everything I’ve been been through, no matter how difficult’ has shaped me into who I am today, I wouldn’t take it back if I could because it has made me who I am.” Regardless of my parents’ status and the mistakes I feel I’ve made, it has given me the strength and resilience I have today.’ Being such a strong individual, I asked her whether she feels fear and if she could talk about it.
She answered back with an ‘of course, every day, still to this day,’ but what trumps all the fearful moments she’s had is still the day her parents were taken away. ‘Acting is hard and even though I thought I’d lived through it all, my road to becoming an actor has been just as hard,’ she said as she continued to tell me about some of the challenges she faces as an actor. But a ‘time I’ve felt fear would have to be my parents’ deportation. In the book, this is one of the most powerful and heartbreaking parts to read. It was told with so much detail, it is haunting. ‘That day left me with trauma that still replays in my head,’ she said.
The book starts with how normal the day was, her father wished her goodbye before she hopped on the T (subway) to school. Upon her return home, her parents were no where in sight. Her mother was cooking, food was left on the stove because before she could finish, ‘they came and arrested her.’ And following her mother’s arrest, immigration officers took her father, on his way home from work. They ‘surrounded the house and took him before he could make it through the door.’ Her mother was deported twice before deciding to remain in Colombia and upon her parents’ return the two separated and even though she got to visit them back in Colombia, she recalls ‘things have never been the same.’ For the full interview, click here to read more.
Diane Guerrero, star of “Orange is the New Black” and “Jane the Virgin,” shares her personal story in her new book, ‘In the Country We Love: The True Story of a Family Divided’. In Diane’s book she talks very openly about her battle with depression, shame and attempted suicide. She didn’t realize till a lot later in her life that these struggles with anger and depression came from her parents’ deportation and situation. Written with Michelle Burford, this memoir casts a light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of families like Guerrero’s and on a system that fails them. Diane Guerrero volunteers with the nonprofit Immigrant Legal Resource Center. She was named an Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization by the White House. For more, follow Diane on Twitter at @dianeguerrero__ and be sure to check out her new book In the Country We Love.