03:52 - Source: CNN
'Orange' actress: They deported my family

Story highlights

'Orange is the New Black' actress Diane Guerrero says her parents were deported when she was 14

She said their deportation disrupted her life, leaving her to rely on friends and neighbors

Guerrero says President Obama should quickly overhaul U.S. immigration laws by executive order

Watch President Barack Obama’s speech live on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

Washington CNN  — 

An actress on the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” says her parents and older brother were deported while she was a teenager – and now she’s backing President Barack Obama’s plans to overhaul the immigration system through an executive order.

Diane Guerrero, who plays Maritza Ramos, a character she described as “a tough Latina from the ‘hood,” on the show, discussed her ordeal in an interview Monday on CNN’s “New Day”

“It is so difficult for some people to get documented and to get their papers and become legal, and my parents tried forever. And this system didn’t offer relief for them,” she told CNN. “What I’m asking for is to create or find a solution for families.”

Now a volunteer for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a nonprofit group that advocates for immigrants’ rights, Guerrero also wrote about going through high school and college without her parents in a Los Angeles Times op-ed over the weekend.

“Keeping families together is a core American value,” she wrote. “Congress needs to provide a permanent, fair legislative solution, but in the meantime families are being destroyed every day, and the president should do everything in his power to provide the broadest relief possible now. Not one more family should be separated by deportation.”

Guerrero, a U.S. citizen, described coming home as a 14-year-old high schooler to an empty house.

“Lights were on and dinner had been started, but my family wasn’t there,” she wrote in the op-ed. “Neighbors broke the news that my parents had been taken away by immigration officers, and just like that, my stable family life was over.”

She said her parents had tried to prepare her for the possibility that they could be deported – but that through high school and college, phone calls and once-per-summer visits to visit her family in Colombia weren’t enough. She said she relied on the goodwill of friends and neighbors to get her through high school and into college.

Her older brother, meanwhile, was deported, while his daughter was still a toddler. “She still had her mother, but in a single-parent household, she faced a lot of challenges,” she wrote, adding that her niece is now in jail, “living the reality that I act out on screen.”

“I realize the issues are complicated. But it’s not just in the interest of immigrants to fix the system: It’s in the interest of all Americans,” Guerrero wrote. “Children who grow up separated from their families often end up in foster care, or worse, in the juvenile justice system despite having parents who love them and would like to be able to care for them.”