At 14 years old, Diane Guerrero came home to an empty house. Mother, father, everyone GONE. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officers rounded up her family when she was in school and sent them to a detention center. Thanks to her Orange is the New Black fame, Guerrero found a voice to speak out…
1. Kids live in fear.
“My childhood was haunted by the fear that they would be deported,” Guerrero wrote in her letter to the Los Angeles Times. “If I didn’t see anyone when I walked in the door after school, I panicked.”
2. Every day is controlled by angst.
“I remember I hid under the bed because I was afraid that somebody was going to come for me,” Guerrero recalled to CNN. “I don’t know who that someone was, but I was just so scared.”
3. You’re force to plan for the day you will be ripped from your family.
“I knew my dad had like this whole system,” Guerrero recalled during a CNN interview. “‘Here’s where I hide this in case anything happens. And, you know, don’t be scared and know that you’re going to be okay and that we love you very much.”
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4. The government doesn’t think twice about the children left behind after an immigration raid.
“Not a single person at any level of government took any note of me,” Guerrero writes in a letter. “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.”
5. Families of deportees are kept in the dark.
“I got home and their cars were there and dinner was started and the lights were on,” Guerrero remembered on CNN. “But I couldn’t find them. So, yes, it was really hard. That was really hard. And then the neighbors came in and they were just like, ‘I’m so sorry but your parents were taken away.'”
6. Becoming a legal citizen is so f—ing tough and it doesn’t get easier.
“Throughout my childhood I watched my parents try to become legal, but to no avail,” Guerrero wrote. “They lost their money to people they believed to be attorneys, but who ultimately never helped.”
READ: The Threat of Immigration Raids is Real Amongst Latinos
7. Judges treat immigration cases like more paperwork.
“They would have liked to fight deportation, but without a lawyer and an immigration system that rarely gives judges the discretion to allow families to stay together, they never had a chance,” Guerrero wrote.
8. Most kids left behind end up on the wrong paths.
“When my brother was deported, his daughter was just a toddler. She still had her mother, but in a single-parent household, she faced a lot of challenges,” Guerrero wrote. “My niece made the wrong friends and bad choices. Today, she is serving time in jail, living the reality that I act out on screen.”
9. The same ones calling for traditional American values hypocritically spend time destroying families.
“I don’t believe it reflects our values as a country to separate children and parents in this way,” Guerrero argues in her letter. “Nor does it reflect our values to hold people in detention without access to good legal representation or a fair shot in a court of law.”
READ: A Look at the World of Migrant Farmworkers through the Eyes of a Child
10. No matter how old you are, it f—ing sucks to be away from your family…
Credit: @dianeguerrero_ / Instagram
“We’ve been separated for so long,” Guerrero tearfully told CNN. I feel like sometimes we don’t know each other and that’s difficult because I’ve grown up without them and there’s things about them that are new that I don’t recognize and it just — it hurts.”
11. It’s time for President Obama to stand up for families and against mass deportation.
“President Obama has promised to act on providing deportation relief for families across the country, and I would urge him to do so quickly,” Guerrero asked in her letter. “Keeping families together is a core American value.”
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