Boston-raised actress shares story of being separated from parents in impassioned speech

When Diane Guerrero was 14, she arrived at her Roxbury home to find that her parents had been taken by law enforcement.

In a weekend that saw protests across the country, including in Boston, against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, a speech by Boston-raised actress Diane Guerrero (“Orange Is the New Black,” “Jane the Virgin”) at a rally in Washington, D.C. on Saturday stood out.

When Guerrero was 14, her parents and stepbrother, who are not citizens, were detained in their Roxbury home by law enforcement and later sent back to their native country of Colombia. (Guerrero was born in New Jersey, and is a U.S. citizen.) In her 2016 book, “In the Country We Love: My Family Divided,” Guerrero wrote that her parents had tried to find a path to citizenship, only to fall victim to scams, and were constantly worried about the threat of deportation.

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“One moment — that’s all it takes for your entire world to split apart,” Guerrero wrote. “For me, that moment came when I was fourteen. I returned home from school to discover that my hardworking immigrant parents had been taken away. In one irreversible instant — in the space of a single breath — life as I’d known it was forever altered.”

In her speech on Saturday, Guerrero spoke about her own experience as a child separated from her parents and passionately defended the rights of migrant children.

“It is a denial of children’s humanity to say that because they were born in a difficult or a dangerous place at the wrong time that they don’t deserve a second chance, that they shouldn’t ask for refuge,” Guerrero said. “How many more children are we willing to subject to a lifetime of pain?

“Once my family was taken, I became fully aware that my community matters less to some people, that we are treated differently because of the color of our skin or where our parents were born,” Guerrero continued. “But we are now in a moment where we can no longer be blind to the blatant disregard of human life. This time the stakes are too visible, too well-documented to be ignored. It has reached you. It has reached all of us and forced us to ask ourselves, ‘What kind of country do we want to be?’ One that violates the rights of children, including the fundamental right to seek asylum? Or do we want to be an America that values children and families and the freedom to be who we are?”

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