WATCH: "Orange Is the New Black" star gives a personal spin on immigration reform

Diane Guerrero decries "negative and divisive rhetoric," calls for the country to unite and solve visa injustices

Published June 10, 2017 8:30AM (EDT)

Actor Diane Guerrero, of “Orange Is the New Black” and "Jane the Virgin" fame, had kept her family's immigration and deportation experience a secret until about a few years ago. She revealed much about her personal trajectory in her book, “In the Country We Love: My Family Divided.”

Donald Trump's negative rhetoric on the campaign trail about immigrants, depicting them as criminals and rapists, prompted her to speak out, she said during a recent episode of "Salon Talks."

Her immediate family, originally from Columbia, was deported when she was just 14; Guerrero was born in the U.S  and allowed to remain her — but without them. "I needed to share my story, just to share sort of the other side of who an undocumented person is and what families are affected by deportation and overall sort what our system looks like; that we have millions of families here going through the same thing," she said.

Young people "often bear the brunt of family separation," Guerrero explained. "These are the people who are not considered by the politicians making decisions in D.C. and by a lot people who don’t understand the immigration system and who don’t care to fix it."

She decried the  out there to do this or that and [that] no one is offering up solutions. And right now the rhetoric is poisonous and it’s dividing us and it’s not really helping the country." When asked what progress would look like to her, she said she wants to see an immigration reform bill passed, citing former President Barack Obama’s efforts to attempt such reform and expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has been stopped “time and time again.”

“Right now, I would like to see the country unite," said said. "I would like to see people voting in 2018 for a Congress that is representative of them and their families, and I’d like to see some sort of reform pass. I'd like to see the visa system updated." Added Guerrero: "If we start there, then we can see what happens. I mean we haven’t tried anything different.”

When questioned about another type of negative imagery that emerged recently — when comic Kathy Griffin shared a bloody, severed image of President Donald Trump's head, Guerrero replied, “I don’t necessarily think that what she did was helpful but I don’t really think it’s that important." I mean what’s important is the overuse of police brutality — that’s important. The separation of families — that’s important. What’s happening with the environment — that’s important."

Catch more of her conversation about immigration reform on Salon.

By Carrie Sheffield

Carrie Sheffield is a Salon Talks host, founder of Bold and adviser to Lincoln Network. She previously wrote editorials for The Washington Times, covered politics for POLITICO and The Hill and analyzed municipal credit for Goldman Sachs and Moody's Investors Service.

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