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Why Diane Guerrero Is The Hero Modern Day America Needs

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Aug. 24 2018, Published 9:36 p.m. ET

Diane Guerrero, best known for her role as Maritza on Orange Is The New Black, has been making strides to help families who have been separated by ICE.

While Maritza is a silly and feisty inmate on tv, Diane Guerrero‘s true life is tragic and traumatic.

She shares her story after finding inspiration from others who have done so as well.

At the age of 14, Guerrero arrived home from school to an empty house.

After unsuccessful attempts at pursuing legal citizenship, her parents had been detained and deported to Colombia. Her mother had been preparing dinner and her father was pulling up to the driveway home from work.

Guerrero was 14 years old and completely alone.

From the time she went to school to the time she arrived home, her family unit had been torn apart. Her means of safety and protection was dismantled leaving her to fear for her own life.
Her immediate reaction was to hide under her bed with her phone. That day, her future became bleak with thoughts of being taken away to foster care, or sent away the way her parents were.
Her neighbors took her in and so she was able to finish high school and college.

The story sounds foreign. Even Hollywood at best. But this happened in her hometown of Boston, Massachusetts and it was her real American life.

“We have the same desire to be together in the same place, but it’s impossible to bring them back to the United States.” she says.

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There are many analogies that compare the United States to an actual single house where immigrants are viewed as the people who “break in” to the house.
But the United States is not a house. The United States is a whole country with houses in it which is why that analogy makes little to no sense when used to describe immigration.

With that analogy in mind, let’s look at Diane Guerrero‘s current life:

Pretending the United States is a single house and she is a legal citizen of this “house” Guerrero is forced to deal with the reality that her family is not being welcome in her own house. Her right to the pursuit of happiness is willfully denied as her immediate family is not allowed to come in and offer her the support and assistance that every human being requires in their home. Her family unit is disrupted.

There aren’t many people with Guerrero’s platform with this experience which is why she felt moreso alone.

These experiences led her to write two books:

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The most recent publication is “My Family Divided” aimed at children 8-12 years old. It is an adaptation of “In The Country We Love: My Family Divided” which she wrote in 2016. She explains the purpose of the book:

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“This is the book I needed as a child. As a kid, I never read anything close to my story. I had no reference point. I felt really alone.

My book isn’t about scaring kids. It’s about showing you a life that could be yours, and it’s about posing questions: How would you deal with something like this if it happened to you? Maybe I can motivate a kid to become an immigration lawyer or run for office or educate his or her parents.”

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“This is the book I needed as a child. As a kid, I never read anything close to my story. I had no reference point. I felt really alone.

My book isn’t about scaring kids. It’s about showing you a life that could be yours, and it’s about posing questions: How would you deal with something like this if it happened to you? Maybe I can motivate a kid to become an immigration lawyer or run for office or educate his or her parents.”

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Nora Krug of The Washington Post writes, “Guerrero recalls the harrowing details of her family’s split-up and the emotional and financial challenges she faced building a life on her own. Guerrero is unsparing in her description of her struggles — with guilt, depression and self-harm; this is a children’s book that might best be read with adult guidance. Still, Guerrero feels strongly that children should not be shielded from her story or others like it.

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‘I’m not one for lying to children. If this is something that is affecting some kids, other kids need to see that,’ she said.”

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‘I’m not one for lying to children. If this is something that is affecting some kids, other kids need to see that,’ she said.”

As the daughter of someone who also grew up with parents who were illegal, I remember the talks my parents had with us considering what we should do if they were to get deported. The idea of it seemed so far-fetched that we never took it seriously. Our thoughts were that the government would never leave us, children, parentless. That just wasn’t right. Whose justice is that?

In Guerrero‘s words:

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“I hope that people can see that family separation is inhumane and traumatic for all parties but most of all for the children involved. If we value children and family, there’s a great need for change, and we should try immigration reform — create a path for citizenship for people already here, update the visa system. It has never been illegal to be a refu­gee. Immigrants are working hard to give our families a better life. Isn’t that what the American Dream is?”

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“I hope that people can see that family separation is inhumane and traumatic for all parties but most of all for the children involved. If we value children and family, there’s a great need for change, and we should try immigration reform — create a path for citizenship for people already here, update the visa system. It has never been illegal to be a refu­gee. Immigrants are working hard to give our families a better life. Isn’t that what the American Dream is?”

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