Diane Guerrero, a Latina actress known for her role in Orange Is the New Black and former ambassador for citizenship and naturalization under the Obama administration, was hosted at Ohio State on Monday by the Ohio Union Activities Board and the coed Latino fraternity Alpha Psi Lambda. She spoke at the Ohio Union about the subject of undocumented citizenship.
The topic is extremely personal for Guerrero, who was born in New Jersey and grew up in Boston after the rest of her family, who didn’t have U.S. citizenship, was deported to Colombia when she was just 14 years old.
“I sort of grew up fast because I had to have my parents back in case anything went down,” she said.
While she said her parents made a point to keep her informed in case the very worst happened, outside the home, the topic of her family possibly being deported was not spoken of.
“The immigration topic and being undocumented wasn’t really something that other people spoke about,” Guerrero said. “It was something that you didn’t talk about when you went out, to your friends or at school. That was something that wasn’t discussed. And even at that age, we weren’t talking about that. Certainly not the way we talk about it now.”
Guerrero also emphasized the importance of coming together as a country.
“More than ever, we have to unite,” she said. “Now is a good time, even though this seems like a very scary time, to look at what we had, look at what we have, and look at what we could be.”
When asked about what it means to be Latina in the United States, Guerrero responded by saying that she looks at it as simply “being a human being.”
She went on to speak of the responsibility she feels that she has to her family and community.
After Guerrero spoke, the floor opened up to questions from the audience. Daniella Vieira, a fourth-year in finance who was born in Brazil, stood at the microphone and spoke of her status as an undocumented student covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“I am one of a few documented student here today and lately we’ve felt really emboldened by people like you and found courage to share our stories,” she said to Guerrero.
Once the event was over, Vieira again took to the microphone to extend a welcome hand to any others in the audience going through the struggle of legalization. She expressed the importance of such a large well-known organization on campus like OUAB the event.
“If this was put on by the Latino Students Association, there wouldn’t be this many people in attendance,” Viera said. “There are people that were probably here today because they like her acting who don’t care as much about immigration so they get to hear it.”