×

The Latino community is prepared to fight Trump’s threats to criminalize immigrants

President-elect Donald Trump. Those words hang like a pall over the immigrant community. The man who began his divisive presidential campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals, will soon become the 45th President of the United States and begin carrying out his threatened anti-immigrant policies.

As two women who have personally experienced family heartache at the hands of the outdated immigration system — who lived in fear and were separated from our families because of it — we have a message to immigrants and advocates who support our cause: Stay strong, stay involved, and fight back.

Diane Guerrero, star of “Orange Is the New Black”
Source: Jeffery Mosier Photography
Diane Guerrero, star of “Orange Is the New Black”

We know our battle will be difficult. Though we joined the immigrant community and our allies to grow the vote in support of policies that treat us with dignity and respect, we suffered a hard loss. Indeed, Trump did not win a majority of the vote, but he won enough states to win the Electoral College votes. In the Latino community, voters turned out at higher numbers over 2012, the year of the last presidential election, and only 18 percent of Latinos supported Trump, according to polling by Latino Decisions. But among Trump supporters, 84 percent favored deportation for undocumented immigrants, according to a New York Times exit poll.

Left with a deeply divided country, we fully understand the risks facing the immigrant community. One of us is an actor, Latino vote and immigrants' rights advocate, and author, whose recent memoir detailed her life as a U.S. citizen child of undocumented parents who were deported when she was 14, and concealed her family's history while struggling to make it on her own. The other is a former undocumented immigrant, and former Goldman Sachs vice president, who became an immigrant rights' advocate and author of a deeply personal memoir that tells her story of hiding her status while climbing up the corporate ladder and the incredibly sacrifices that it took to pursue the American dream.

We persevered in the face of incredible adversity, because, as a first generation American and as an immigrant, we carry in our hearts the dreams of our parents who struggled to create lives for us in the country we love and call home.



"President-elect Donald Trump. Those words hang like a pall over the immigrant community. The man who began his divisive presidential campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals, will soon become the 45th President of the United States and begin carrying out his threatened anti-immigrant policies."

We stand strong with the immigrant and Latino communities. We are ready to fight Trump's threats to criminalize immigrants by ending community policies in so-called sanctuary cities; to conduct mass deportations; and to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by President Obama that protects young undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children from deportation and provides them with a two-year work permit. We will appeal to fair-minded politicians to build bridges across communities, not walls that further divide us.

We also urge undocumented immigrants and their citizen children to contact local immigration advocacy groups for advice based on their status. Children who were preparing to apply for DACA should hold off and seek more information, given Trump's threat to end the program.

We just won't play defense. It is important for our communities to continue pushing our fight for justice and equality.

Julissa Arce
Source: Vincent Remini
Julissa Arce

There is no doubt that immigration reform is good for all Americans. Over 1.3 million jobs would be created with immigration reform, according to the Social Security Administration. Trump's supporters believe immigrants should "do it the right way," and "get in the back of the line" without realizing that the line for undocumented immigrants doesn't exist. Under the current system million of people are left with no path to legalization. Let's join forces to create a path to citizenship for those who have waited for decades as undocumented immigrants. Join us to bring back our parents and veterans who have been deported. Join us to create a more fair and inclusive system.

Yes, we feel beset by the election results. But let's turn our worry and anger into action and remind Congress and the next president that we are part of the American story and they have to represent us too. We are here and we are not going anywhere. We are not moving to Canada, we are not going back to "where we came from," as some of the ill-informed like to say.

We will fight for our futures and those of the communities we serve. We are resilient, strong, and intelligent, and we will not let the results of this election distract us from the task at hand. We have come too far to give up now.

Commentary by Diane Guerrero and Julissa Arce.

Guerrero, a New Jersey native, is best known for her roles on the award winning, Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black," (for which she received two Screen Actors Guild awards), and on CW's break-out hit, "Jane the Virgin." She recently published her memoir, "In the Country We Love." Guerrero is also a White House Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization and volunteers with Latino civic engagement and immigrants' rights groups. Follow her on Twitter @dianneguerrero_.

Julissa Arce is author of the book, "My (Underground) American Dream." Arce made national and international headlines when she revealed that she had achieved the American Dream of wealth and status working her way up to vice president at Goldman Sachs by age 27 while being an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. She currently works with the Ascend Educational Fund, a scholarship program for immigrant students in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @julissaarce.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.