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Students enjoy a night with Diane Guerrero

Guerrero spoke to students about the need for activism and and immigration reform.

Diane+Guerrero+headlined+ASI%27s+%22Evening+with%22+series+on+Tuesday+night.+
Diane Guerrero headlined ASI's

Diane Guerrero headlined ASI's "Evening with" series on Tuesday night.

Hunter Lee | Daily 49er

Hunter Lee | Daily 49er

Diane Guerrero headlined ASI's "Evening with" series on Tuesday night.

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Hundreds of students packed into the University Student Union Ballroom Tuesday night to hear Diane Guerrero’s speech on immigration rights and the realities of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as part of Associated Student Association’s Inc. “Evening with” series.

The night marks the sixth event in the annual series, with Guerrero marking the first female to headline the event. Her speech to students highlighted the need for immigration reform, her journey of becoming an activist icon and a call for action. In light of her latest novel, “In the Country We Love: My Family Divided” and the spotlight as an immigration reform activist, Guerrero’s life and role as an actor/activist has drastically changed in the past year, which made her the perfect guest to speak to the largely Latinx group that filled in the room.

“My whole life I had this experience that shaped me and this whole time I didn’t want this experience to define me,” Guerrero said. “There’s more to me than my parents being deported at 14. But when I go to colleges and see students speaking about their own experiences I realize it’s way bigger than me.”

Guerrero came back to this idea multiple times throughout the night, that young people were the ones who inspired her to come out about her story, and encouraged others to do the same.

“If you don’t want to come out about it then you don’t have to,” Guerrero said. “If you want to share your story then we’re here for you and if you can be a leader in this moment then we need you. It’s hard to say don’t be afraid and keep on going but what’s worse right now is to stay silent and not do anything.”

While Guerrero emphasized the need to find a support group or organization to deal with the fear that comes with being a Deferred Action recipient, she also recognized the reality of struggling to find your place in the world, particularly as a Latina. She told students about her aspirations to be a journalist, an artist and even a diplomat but seeing the lack of Latinx representation in her life while growing up, and why it’s up to students to change that.

“Be out there looking out for what happens on a daily basis,” Guerrero said. “This is the time where your voice matters the most. This is the time to get together and decide what kind of country you want.”

The night was sprinkled with humorous stories from Guerrero’s childhood, constant jokes and references to her characters from “Orange is the New Black” and “Jane the Virgin,” even Guerrero breaking out into song and endorsing pineapples on pizza. These tangents filled the room with laughter and applause.

“My first day on set [of Orange is the New Black], everyone knew each other and I had no friends and I didn’t know who to ask about what I was supposed to be doing,” Guerrero said. “I just waited a long time to get on, it was like 3 a.m. and I had gotten there at 2 a.m. Luckily that didn’t happen again because after that I got a hang of things.”

Through the humor and motivational speeches, first year journalism major Melanie Morales felt as though Guerrero was the perfect speaker to invite given the political climate.

“She’s very strong and I’m glad she’s the role model for many people in the Latinx community,” Morales said. “She gave credit to a lot of Latinx women because we often don’t get enough representation and she’s great representation for what it means to be a Latinx woman.”

Much like her novel, Guerrero ended the night with a call to action for students about deferred action recipients, the need for immigration reform and the importance of voting.

“I talk to a lot of DACA students who are afraid but I know your strength and I see your strength because I come from that community,” Guerrero said. “Immigration and DACA is not just a Latinx issue. DACA isn’t the solution … we need a comprehensive reform bill and a real path for citizenship.”

While answering a question during the student Q&A session, Guerrero struggled to hold back tears as she spoke about her family not being a large part in her life.

“I’ve been going through these experiences on my own and not being able to share my lows and high moments with my family and that’s been really hard for me,” Guerrero said. “When my parents called me to tell me they saw me on the newspaper in Colombia and they were so excited and proud of me, I feel like that’s been the most rewarding moment since my career has started.”

The message of becoming part of a community and fighting for the people in that group stuck with students after the event, including fourth year psychology major Luz Laveles.

“She was telling us to not be afraid and to follow our dreams and just get out there and get it done,” Laveles said. “My main takeaway would be to not be afraid and to get involved in the community and keep pushing forward.”

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