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Immigration reform hits home for Orange is the New Black actress

Actress Diane Guerrero will be on campus Friday to discuss immigration reform in an event organized by the Latin American Student Organization, in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month. Photo by the American Library Association/Flickr

This presidential election cycle has been rife with disparaging talk about immigration, and though immigration reform is a familiar topic on the campaign trail, the tone this year is apt to weigh heavily on those directly impacted by immigration.

In an effort to foster discussion about the issue, and in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, members of the Latin American Student Organization invited actress and Boston native Diane Guerrero to campus. Guerrero, who will speak on campus Friday night, recently published a memoir titled In the Country We Love—A Family Divided, which is based on her life as the child of Colombian immigrants who were deported when she was 14 years old.

I’m hoping her unique story will inspire anyone who keeps hearing these awful things on the news about deportation.
—Camila Simons, Latin American Student Organization president

Guerrero is perhaps best known for her TV roles on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black and the CW’s Jane the Virgin. It was announced this week that Guerrero has been cast to star in a new CBS drama, In the Country We Love, based on her memoir.

“Throughout my childhood I watched my parents try to become legal but to no avail,” Guerrero wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed. “They lost their money to people they believed to be attorneys, but who ultimately never helped. That meant my childhood was haunted by the fear that they would be deported. If I didn’t see anyone when I walked in the door after school, I panicked. And then one day, my fears were realized.”

Guerrero was born a U.S. citizen, but found herself “basically on my own,” she wrote, after her parents and older brother were deported. She continued her high school education at the Boston Academy of the Arts, ultimately going on to great success in acting.

She’s been an outspoken advocate for fairer immigration policies. Guerrero volunteers with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a nonprofit that advances immigrants’ rights, and last year was named as a White House ambassador for citizenship and naturalization.

Guerrero won’t be the first Orange star to speak on campus for Hispanic Heritage Month—last year LASO hosted actress Jackie Cruz—but more than star power, the student organization was looking for someone who could speak to the specific issue of immigration.

“We wanted to get someone who had a powerful message that had to do with the election,” said Camila Simons, LASO president. “I’m hoping her unique story will inspire anyone who keeps hearing these awful things on the news about deportation.”

Simons said LASO worked with several other student group coalitions on campus to organize the event.

“Immigration is an issue that kids in so many communities can relate to,” Simons said, adding that she doesn’t want the discussion to end after Friday’s event. The next LASO meeting will be structured as an immigration workshop “so the dialogue doesn’t end with Diane coming, speaking about her experience, then leaving,” she said. “We need to continue to talk about how this experience affects everyone personally.”

The event is open to all Northeastern students and will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday in Blackman Auditorium. Tickets are required and can be purchased on myNEU for $10.

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