TV actor Diane Guerrero discusses her family’s deportation, immigration reform

Coming to the University of Iowa as part of the UI Lecture Series, actor Diane Guerrero sat down with KRUI and The Daily Iowan to talk about her life as a daughter of undocumented parents and advocacy for immigration reform.


Megan Conroy

Diane Guerrero during her interview with KRUI to discuss her book and her lecture at the University on Tuesday, April 30.

Dressed entirely in blue with eyeliner to match in the bright white KRUI studio, “Orange is the New Black” and “Jane the Virgin” actor Diane Guerrero seemed to sparkle as she spoke about her visit to the University of Iowa as a University Lecture Committee speaker to discuss her book, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided.

Published in 2016, the 29-year-old’s memoir details her life as the daughter, with citizenship, of undocumented parents and her struggle against an immigration system she believes to be broken.

Guerrero was separated from her family at age 14 when her parents and older brother were deported to Colombia after unsuccessfully seeking legal citizenship in the U.S.

Guerrero was born in Passaic, New Jersey, and raised by Colombian families in Boston. After pursuing a career in the arts and theater, she landed roles in the Emmy-winning Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” as Maritza Ramos and as Lina in “Jane the Virgin.”

Since speaking about her family’s struggles, Guerrero has become an outspoken leader for comprehensive immigration reform, and President Barack Obama in 2015  named her a White House ambassador for citizenship and naturalization. However, she said, she doesn’t consider herself to be an activist.

“People call anyone who is bold enough to talk about something that’s sort of taboo or scary an activist,” Guerrero said in an interview with The Daily Iowan. “I just consider myself a human trying to do her best and trying to live my best life, trying to live my dreams — and I know in order to live my dreams, there are so many things I need to care about.”

While Guerrero believes there is still plenty to be done when it comes to reforming immigration policies, she believes the country has come a long way in regard to creating communities for struggling immigrants.

Megan Conroy
Diane Guerrero during her interview with KRUI to discuss her book and her lecture at the University on Tuesday, April 30.

“Fifteen years ago, when this happened to my family, we weren’t having these conversations,” she said. “It was very scary to even tell anyone that you were going through something like this. I think right now it’s important to build community around these kinds of conversations.”

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Although it is easy to feel powerless in a country in which not everyone is given equal voting rights, Guerrero said, she feels more in control when she starts speaking about her story.

“I’m not a politician,” she said. “I don’t pretend to know what’s going on, but I do want to be involved. And I think that the more you do it, the more you know.”

Since speaking out, Guerrero has continued to fight for immigration reform, having worked with Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Mi Familia Vota, and New American Leaders Project.

“I’m trying to make the best out of my situation,” she said. “I didn’t want to be trapped by my story anymore, whether that was continuing to lie about it or just staying silent on the matter. I think by sharing our stories, we begin to understand each other and understand ourselves.”