To most Americans, Immigration reform is just a debate topic. We hear about it all the time, from the comforts of our home television set, computer or tablet. On a days we’re feeling bold, we may trade barbs back and forth between friends. It’s just another issue to enliven the conversation… talk a little bit about tax rates, street repair, the undocumented.
But to those that are directly affected, immigration reform is all too real. Families across this country are living in a constant state of fear that life as they know it could change drastically at the next door knock.
Over the weekend, one American actress decided to share her story of those fears realized with the whole world. Here is an excerpt from Diane Guerrero’s powerful piece in the Los Angeles Times…
In “Orange Is the New Black,” I play Maritza Ramos, a tough Latina from the ‘hood. In “Jane the Virgin,” I play Lina, Jane’s best friend and a funny know-it-all who is quick to offer advice.
I love both parts, but they’re fiction. My real story is this: I am the citizen daughter of immigrant parents who were deported when I was 14. My older brother was also deported.
My parents came here from Colombia during a time of great instability there. Escaping a dire economic situation at home, they moved to New Jersey, where they had friends and family, seeking a better life, and then moved to Boston after I was born.
Throughout my childhood I watched my parents try to become legal but to no avail. 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. I came home from school to an empty house. Lights were on and dinner had been started, but my family wasn’t there. Neighbors broke the news that my parents had been taken away by immigration officers, and just like that, my stable family life was over.
Not a single person at any level of government took any note of me. 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.
As the only U.S. Citizen in her immediate family, Ms. Guerrero suddenly found herself an orphan. As she shares in this heartbreaking interview on CNN’s New Day, her parents and brother are still in Colombia, and she had to depend on friends and neighbors through high school and college just to make it.
Guerrero also spoke to why her family came to the United States in the first place. They were fleeing an unstable situation in their home country, and tried to do things the legal way first…
What people don’t realize… it is so difficult for people to come here, get their papers and become documented. My parents tried forever, and the system didn’t offer relief for them.
Under current law and an immense backlog, legal immigration to the United States can take as long as 24 years to be fully realized… literally an entire generation of one’s life. For all of the people arguing for folks to “go to the back of the line”, they’re not talking waiting for a new toy at CostCo. Would any American citizen be willing to wait that long to do… well, anything??
As the country waits to hear President Obama’s plans for sweeping Executive Actions that would set to prioritize how deportations are to be handled, let’s get yet another thing clear. Comprehensive Immigration Reform or not, we MUST have a plan for prioritization. We all know that it is impossible to deport every single undocumented person at once. We also know that the vast majority of these persons pose no threat to the communities that they are already living and working in. The country’s law enforcement agencies continue to waste valuable time and money pursuing people that are doing nothing wrong, while the real criminals are left to do as they please.
For the sake our citizens and their loved ones, it’s time to act on these misguided deportation policies. The health and safety of real families shouldn’t be up for debate.