On “Orange is the New Black,” Diane Guerrero’s character Maritza is a tough Latina who is separated from her young daughter while she does time. It’s a pretty moving storyline on its own, but Guerrero’s real life is just as captivating, if not more.
When she was 14 years old, she came home to an empty house. The cars were out front, the lights were on and dinner had been started, but there was no one home to finish it. Neighbors told her that immigration officers had taken her parents and older brother away.
“I broke down. I hid under the bed because I was afraid that someone was going to come for me.”
Guerrero moved in with a friend’s family when her own family was deported to Colombia. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t easy on the teenager, who worked in a variety of jobs and did her best to stay in touch with short phone calls and annual summer trips that she still takes today.
“We’ve been separated for so long that sometimes I feel like we don’t know each other,” she says.
She considers herself lucky, especially because the rest of her family hasn’t been as fortunate. When Guerrero’s brother was deported, his daughter was a toddler who ended up facing a lot of challenges in life. Like Guerrero’s Maritza, her niece is now serving time in jail.
Guerrero is calling on Congress to enact fair legislation for immigrant families so that they aren’t torn apart by deportation, and hopes President Obama will do everything in his power to provide a solution.
Watch Guerrero's emotional interview with New Day above, and read her letter in the Los Angeles Times for more.