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Deportation 'is part of the American story'

She stars in a critically acclaimed series, but her success as actress does not mean there isn't real-world pain in the life of Diane Guerrero. Guerrero is more than someone artfully reciting words someone else has written; she writes her own as well.

A star of the Netflix ensemble hit "Orange Is the New Black," she also has a new memoir out, "In the Country We Love," chronicling the pain of an immigrant family torn apart. Guerrero is a U.S. citizen whose undocumented parents were deported to their native Columbia when she was 14 years old.

She says the story of her family "is part of the American story."

She well remembers the day when her world came apart: May 17, 2001. She was alone in her family's home — a house normally percolating with music and conversation — eerily quiet that day. Her father's unlaced boots sat near the entrance. The bitter odor of burnt plantains permeated the home; a sign that her mother's dinner preparations had come to an unexpected halt.

A neighbor broke the news: immigration officers had seized Guerrero's parents.

She vowed then and there that she would not allow her parents' sacrifices to go to waste.

"After my parents were snatched away, no government official checked up on me," she writes in her memoir. "No one seemed to care or even notice that I was on my own."

With a combination of self-reliance and the help of family friends, she was able to stay in the United States. The pain of separation from her parents "was so deep," she says.

She overcame the despair and accompanying personal struggles to find success as an actor and author. She has not forgotten her roots, however. She works with nonprofit immigrant rights organizations, pushing to get more young Latinos to be politically active in the hopes that one day soon families can be spared the deportation ordeal hers endured.

Those who face deportation can discuss their rights and legal options with an experienced Staten Island immigration attorney.

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