‘In the Country We Love: My Family Divided’

A review

Evelyn Sanchez, Writer

There were more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center, many of whom have citizen children. Diane Guerrero, from Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” and the CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” reveals her story detailing her experience growing up in the United States without the support of her close family due to the deportation of her parents and sibling.

She was 14-years-old, when her parents and brother, were arrested and deported to their native Colombia. Guerrero, who is a United States citizen, became aware of her family’s situation by the age of seven and lived in fear of being separated from her family. This caused her upbringing to be difficult, as she faced a lack of stability and security.

Her story highlights her journey as an adolescent growing up with psychological and academic roadblocks, and entails how she uses these experiences and her own personal story to become an advocate for undocumented immigrants. Much of her own family’s experience with the immigration process in the United States can resonate with that of current families that face the same fears of deportation. Her family intended to pursue permanent legal status but a combination of factors stood in their way.

One fear was that applying for residency would put them on the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) radar and get them deported.

They also had financial constraints and even worked multiple jobs to pay for an immigration attorney. The legal counsel they sought and received ended up being incorrect and the attorney stole their hard-earned money and disappeared.

The psychological turmoil that Guerrero faced is also depicted in her memoir through stories that illustrate her schooling and her experience growing up. She suffered from periods of depression and had issues of unaddressed trauma due to the deportation of her family and lack of stability. She did not have a strong support system and ended up in financial ruins. Eventually, she ended up seeking help from a psychologist who encouraged her to address her issues and pursue her dreams of acting. It was through this source of support that she was able to excel and address her issues around deportation.

Using her experiences as a springboard for her memoir, the book highlights the need for advocacy in terms of proper legal information and guidance for undocumented immigrants. As Guerrero says in her book, “Our passions don’t just compel us; they can also heal us.” Adequate immigration legal guidance is often seldom and scarce, especially if there is a concern of deportation if one identifies himself or herself as an undocumented immigrant and seeks assistance.

Another area in need of advocacy is proper social emotional support for children whose parents have been deported or who are currently in fear of being deported. Being a high school counselor, I have seen firsthand how the fear of deportation and family separation has affected my students psychologically.

Especially in terms of feelings, isolation and anxiety are emotions I see in them often. These issues cannot be seen solely as immigrant rights, but that of a human rights issue. There needs to be continued support and advocacy for this vulnerable population. In addition we need awareness of this issue to those working with students in order to create a global understanding that can lead to the betterment of our society.