Read it and weep, Donald Trump! It was May, 2000. When 14-year-old Diane Guerrero came home from high school, she found her house deserted. Her worst nightmare had come true: Her parents had been detained by immigration officers and would soon be deported to Colombia. Guerrero, the actress known for her work on “Orange is the New Black” and “Jane the Virgin”, is the citizen daughter of Colombian immigrants. She tells her story of horror and heartbreak and hope in “In the Country We Love: My Family Divided” (Henry Holt, $26) as she recounts her family’s struggle to stay together—a story all too familiar to millions of long-term mixed status families in this country who live in fear of being separated by deportation.
Amid a lively childhood in Boston, Guerrero says “fear permeated every part of our existence.” Her parents worked multiple jobs to make ends meet, and did their best to give her every opportunity for an American education and life, but their path to citizenship was blocked by impossible bureaucracy, discrimination and crooked lawyers. After her parents were deported, Guerrero, essentially orphaned by the U.S. government, was taken in by family friends. With extraordinary resilience she graduated from the prestigious Boston Arts Academy, put herself through college and acting classes and eventually cultivated the successful acting career she enjoys today. Guerrero experienced teenage woes, those life-altering firsts every young woman goes through, the anxiety and confusion of being a young adult, but also celebrations—birthdays, getting into college, landing her first job—all without the presence of her family. She often says that if it weren’t for the love of performing that she fostered at Boston Arts Academy, she would’ve likely ended up more like Maritza, her character on “Orange is the New Black”.
Guerrero volunteers with the nonprofit Immigrant Legal Resource Center and with Mi Familia Vota, an organization that promotes Latino civic involvement. She has been named an Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization by the White House. There are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, many of whom have citizen children, whose lives are just as precarious. Guerrero hopes this book, simultaneously published in Spanish, will shed light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of immigrant families, and help those children feel a little less alone.