Actress Diane Guerrero took the stage Saturday at D.C.’s Families Belong Together rally to share her own experience of family separation and demand change for the children being "irreversibly damaged" at the border today.
Guerrero’s mother and father were deported back to their native Colombia when she was just 14 years old. Her older brother was later deported as well. The 31-year-old actress, known for her roles in Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” and the CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” has written an adult and children’s book about her divided family.
“Once my family was taken, I became fully aware that my community matters less to some people,” Guerrero told the crowd in D.C. “That we are treated differently because of the color of our skin or where our parents were born.”
Guerrero, who was born in America, first spoke publically about being the child of undocumented immigrants in a 2014 Los Angeles Times op-ed. She detailed her life after their deportation and wrote that "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." Though "the parents of friends graciously" cared for her, she said she lived a "rocky existence." Guerrero recounted the singing recitals and graduations her family missed.
Standing on the D.C. stage and at times speaking through tears, Guerrero admitted that she was “lucky enough to have people in my community take me in... to be able to continue school… to find work or to go to college" following her family's deportation. However, she acknowledged that “that kind of luck is one in a million.”
“I wouldn’t have been so lucky if I had been among today’s generation of children who will be irreversibly damaged by our government's actions,” Guerrero said. "I would have had a much different story to tell if I had been imprisoned after being separated from my family, without a warm bed and only the cold faces of ICE agents and the crinkling feeling of a Mylar blanket."
She railed against the administration's zero-tolerance policy that separated more than 2,000 children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Guerrero was one of the thousands of people in cities across the country who protested Saturday and demanded the administration reunite divided families.
“It’s a denial of children’s humanity to say that because they were born in a difficult or dangerous place at the wrong time that they don’t deserve a second chance, that they shouldn’t ask for refuge,” Guerrero shouted. “How many more children are we willing to subject to a lifetime of pain?”
She encouraged her listeners to “remember in November” the administration’s policies and to enact change. She implored the crowd not to “be blind to the blatant disregard of human life.”
“When we march to the polls, remember our anger, the outrage and the desire to act. Remember in November that the end to these cruel policies starts with us.”
“As one who has seen first hand, I have taught myself to have hope,” Guerrero added. “I have to believe that this is an opportunity for us to rise above the tyranny, the ignorance, the malpractice, and believe in change. This is the chance for us to come together as a nation and rise above division and fear. Only then can we stop the separation of families and stop the policies that place children in cages.”
Guerrero concluded: “Te amo, mamá, papá, hermano. Te amo, and I miss you every day.”