“Orange is the New Black” Actress on Immigration

Her "Orange Is the New Black" character faced deportation — which she watched happen to her own family as a teenager. Now, Diane Guerrero is raising awareness about the experiences of immigrants.

Guerrero says xenophobia and racism have roots far deeper than what’s being seen today

Actress Diane Guerrero is known for her roles in “Orange is the Black” and “Jane the Virgin.” As the child of immigrants, she wants to use her platform to bring awareness to the real-life experiences of migrants in America. As the only member of her immediate family with U.S. citizenship, Guerrero saw her parents and older brother deported to Colombia when she was 14. Her character in “Orange is the New Black” was also deported to Colombia after having lived in the U.S. her entire life. In 2018, over 256,000 undocumented immigrants were deported by the Trump administration according to ICE.

“Orange is the New Black has always hit close to home for me. I grew up in a community where a lot of people were separated through incarceration or through deportation like my family was. “Orange” has always done a beautiful job citing what is happening in our society to inform us to inform the conversation, which I think is wonderful. But also, “Orange” inspired me to share my own story. And we saw how they needed to tell that story in the last season. I assume that responsibility with pride and also wonder why more of us weren't doing,” Diane Guerrero

Guerrero says xenophobia and racism have roots far deeper than what’s being seen today. Guerrero is still dealing with the psychological fallout from her family’s separation; she struggles with trust and anger issues, and as she wrote in her book, she often felt worthless emotions that led, for a while, to self-harm and drinking. But she has also found a good therapist, and as her career has blossomed, Guerrero says activism has become a part of her healing process. She speaks at universities, has volunteered with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center—an organization that helps immigrants mobilize and provides technical assistance to immigration law practitioners—and she speaks to young people whose own families have been separated.