As Maritza Ramos in “Orange is the New Black” and
Lina in “Jane the Virgin,” Guerrero has helped
usher in a wave of diverse storytelling on television,
amplifying the voices of strong, resourceful women whose lives
haven’t always received air time.
Off screen, Guerrero uses her platform to advocate for
immigrants and U.S. immigration reform, telling her own story of
her parents’ deportation to serve as a rallying cry for families
who live under the weight of immigration policy.
Guerrero will share her story with the University of Michigan
community during the upcoming Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Summit. She will speak at a community assembly and
discussion from 9-10:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018 at the
Power Center in Ann Arbor.
The discussion will be moderated by author and Pulitzer
Prize-winning journalist Leonard Pitts Jr. Tickets are
not required for entrance, and seating will be on a first-come,
As she details in her memoir, “In the Country We Love: My
Family Divided,” and her children’s book, “My Family
Divided,” Guerrero’s parents were deported to Colombia when
she was 14 years old. To this day, they have not been able to
rejoin her in the United States.
“It impacted me greatly, the separation of my family,” Guerrero
said. “Now we have such a great visibility with the children
separated from their families at the border and what that does
to a family, what that does to a child. It stunts a child’s
She says she publicly shared her own family’s history amid the
anti-immigrant rhetoric during the last presidential election
“It’s something that I had lived with for so long and I was
ashamed of for so long,” Guerrero said. “The minute that I
started to get work as an actor, (I was) asked a lot of personal
questions. I just thought it would be a great time to liberate
myself from that shame and actually discuss issues that really
When it comes to broadly improving the U.S. immigration system,
Guerrero noted the need for a path to citizenship for immigrants
already living in the United States, updates to the visa system,
broad decriminalization and the reunification of families.
On college campuses, Guerrero said, faculty and staff can better
support undocumented students or students whose lives have been
touched by immigration by openly discussing the issue in class.
“I think that every teacher should read up or learn up on the
challenges that the immigrant community faces, especially
immigrant students,” Guerrero said. “And I think that there
should be a center where these students can go for help and
At some schools she visits, she said, students tell her a lot of
teachers don’t make immigration a positive topic, or that the
issue is a taboo one to discuss.
“That should not be,” Guerrero said. “It is part of our American
history. It’s something that we should openly talk about, and
certainly humanize and decriminalize. And so it starts in the
classrooms. If our teachers are positive about the topic and are
open about it, then the rest of the student body will begin to.”
As U-M continues with a years-long process to enhance diversity,
equity and inclusion on campus, Guerrero emphasized the
importance of diversifying faculty, staff and student ranks in
order for higher education institutions to reach these outcomes.
“We still have very low percentages of people of color going and
graduating from higher education,” Guerrero said, adding that
diversity should be a goal of higher education institutions.
“Until we have a system in place that is fair and equal, then
that should be a major component of your mission,” she said.
“Especially when we’re talking about equality and justice for
all — not just in schools but in our country and our society —
then where does that all begin? That starts in schools.”
As reflected in her career choices, Guerrero said she decided to
pursue acting because she wanted to tell stories that reflected
her experience and her community’s experience, which she didn’t
It’s a calling she hopes to continue in the future.
“I’m out here because I want to represent my community and I
want others that look like me or have come from a similar
situation or have a similar background to be able to relate,”
she said. “I hope to open doors for other people who also are
interested in this medium, who also want to tell stories that
reflect who we are and help our communities grow.”
Article courtesy of the University of Michigan’s The
University Record, Oct. 1, 2018 Edition.