'Orange Is the New Black' Actress Tearfully Recalls Being Separated From Family at D.C. Immigration Rally

Diane Guerrero - H Getty 2018
JC Olivera/Getty Images for National Hispanic Media Coalition

Diane Guerrero delivered a powerful speech at one of the more than 700 protests demanding immigrant children and parents be reunited.

Diane Guerrero was just one of the Hollywood stars to take part in the more than 700 planned rallies nationwide in support of reuniting immigrant families separated under the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy.

But the actress — whose recent credits include roles on Orange Is the New Black, Jane the Virgin and Superior Donuts — delivered one of the most striking speeches at the Families Belong Together demonstration in Washington, D.C., as she tearfully recalled being separated from her own family 17 years ago.

"I would have had a much different story to tell if I had been imprisoned after being separated from my family, without a warm bed and only the cold faces of ICE agents and the crinkly feeling of a Mylar blanket," she said, her voice rising, referencing the current conditions of detained children. "I was lucky enough to be with my parents until I was 14. Having my parents tell me that I could do anything, that I was special. And that I matter."

Guerrero, who had fought back tears, by then appeared to be crying as she pressed on and recalled what happened to her after she was separated from her parents.

"That gave me the confidence to last me a lifetime. I don't know why I was lucky enough to have people in my community take me in, to be able to continue school, or why I was lucky enough to find work or to go to college. I do know that kind of luck is one in a million," she said "I also know I wouldn't have been so lucky if I had been among today's generation of children who will be irreversibly damaged by our government's actions."

She then made a plea for others at the rally to show that they value the "humanity" of detained immigrant 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. 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 said. "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?"

She called on those listening to consider the fallout from the Trump administration policy when they vote in the midterm elections this year.

"Remember, remember this in November. Remember this in November, when we march to the polls. Remember our anger, our outrage and the desire to act. Remember in November that the end to these cruel policies starts with us," she said, before telling her parents she loves them and misses them every day.

In a 2014 Los Angeles Times op-ed, Guerrero identified herself as the "citizen daughter of immigrant parents" who were deported when she was 14.  Her parents came to the U.S. from Colombia "during a time of great instability," she wrote, adding that they were "escaping a dire economic situation at home" and "seeking a better life" in the U.S., where she 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," she wrote. "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."

But no one from the government checked on her and she was ultimately taken in by her friends' parents.

After days of outrage earlier this month, Trump signed an executive order ending the separation of families detained crossing the U.S. border illegally. Still, roughly 2,000 children, who were separated from their parents under the administration's zero-tolerance policy, have yet to be reunited.

Planned marches also took place in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and other areas (from big cities to small towns) across the country.

Watch Guerrero's fiery speech below.