Letting people know that you’re the son or daughter of parents who are in the U.S. illegally can still bring backlash, even if you’re a famous actress.
That’s exactly what happened with Diane Guerrero, the actress who plays Maritza Ramos in the series “Orange Is the New Black.” Last month, Guerrero, who was born in New Jersey, wrote an op-ed in the L.A. Times in which she described coming home one day to find an empty house. Her mother, father and brother were undocumented and the fear that she grew up with came true one day: her family was deported back to Colombia.
“Not a single person at any level of government took any note of me,” Guerrero, now 28, wrote. “No one checked to see if I had a place to live or food to eat, and at 14, I found myself basically on my own.
Guerrero told Fusion before the op-ed was published she had never been so open about her parents and brother being deported to Colombia.
“It was scary getting the backlash after coming out,” Guerrero said during an interview after after she appeared on a panel at the National Immigrant Integration Conference.
“People would say things like ‘your parents broke the law and get in the back of the line,’” Guerrero told Fusion.
She says she read hateful tweets, e-mails and negative blog posts arguing her parents deserved to be deported.
“They would say, if you and your parents were so lonely after they were deported why didn’t you go back with them,” Guerrero told Fusion.
Two days after Guerrero's op-ed was published, the L.A. Times published a story noting that her op-ed fell on "readers' deaf ears," and described letters The Times received from readers as expressing “little sympathy for the actress or others whose families face similar circumstances."
Guerrero's parent's were living in the U.S. without authorization and for the Times readers who took the time to write-in, "that fact trumps any tear-jerking tales of family trauma," the paper noted.
“Families are “‘being destroyed everyday’ due to their own bad choices,” one woman wrote to Times.
“Why didn't her parents bring her back to Colombia to be with them?”, that same woman goes on to ask. “She probably would have had the same opportunity to go to school and become an actress.”
Guerrero was part of a mixed-status family. Her parents were born in Colombia but she was the only U.S.-born member of her family. There’s an estimated 16.6 million people in the U.S. that are part of families with at least one unauthorized immigrant, according to the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.
Guerrero says her work now is to create awareness about how complicated immigration policies are and how ‘it’s not just black and white.”
“It’s only making me stronger and makes me want to bring even more awareness to those affected personally by immigration and those not affected by immigration personally,” Guerrero said.