Immigration policy lately has been constantly under scrutiny—but that doesn’t mean it’s a topic that we should be afraid to talk about. With the Trump administration’s latest announcement that DACA will be rescinded, we all need to be speaking out more than ever – either about our own stories or as allies for those whose futures may be compromised. These six celebs have not only shared their personal stories of immigration, but have also gone the extra mile to advocate for others.
In a very intimate essay for PopSugar Latina, the former Fifth Harmony singer didn’t hold back in sharing the nitty gritty of her immigration experience. She recalls her mother telling her that they were packing up all of her things for a trip to Disney World, and that although they were leaving her father behind he would join shortly after. Most of her success she attributes to her metaphorical hunger — the need to do the impossible just to survive. After rising to fame, Cabello has worked with both the Children’s Health Fund and Save the Children.
Maria Teresa Kumar
Kumar was born in Colombia, but then immigrated to California where she grew up in a bilingual household. As the President and CEO of the non-partisan organization Voto Latino — focused on the importance of encouraging the Latinx community to vote —she states that this position was the logical outgrowth of the immigrant and bicultural experiences of her youth. “I grew up in a bicultural household, so my whole life I have been translating, and with Voto Latino, it is about translating to mainstream America what it means to be Latino.” Her aspirations only continue to grow, and she hopes that Voto Latino will be a catalyst in the election of the first Latino president.
The famous dog trainer came to the United States when he was 21, by hopping the U.S. – Mexico border. “I did it illegally so I jumped the border. I didn’t speak any English. After living two months on the streets under the freeways, I was homeless for a little while, then I got a job as a dog walker.” He grew up with his father and grandfather who both had a huge love for animals, which proved invaluable in helping him develop the career he has today. “I went back to my roots, so I was walking dogs off leash. That’s when I realized, okay, people in America are disconnected to the natural relationship with Mother Nature. That’s when I decided, ‘I’m not going to train dogs anymore, I’m going to train people, so I can rehabilitate their dogs.’ And, so that’s how my new profession was born.”
Not only is Salma Hayek one of our faves, but she also isn’t afraid to share how her immigration story shaped her journey to stardom. In an interview with V Magazine Spain in 2010 she revealed that she became undocumented while already in the states, which only made it harder to be considered for serious leading roles as one of the few Latinas in Hollywood. Nevertheless she persisted — the magazine featured her with the caption Armas de Mujer (A Woman’s Weapons) and she now uses her platform as an actress to raise awareness for women’s rights and undocumented workers.
The world was introduced to Guerrero from two hit shows, Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, but from the moment she launched into the public eye, she proved her celebrity status was going to be anything but superficial. The Colombiana has been upfront about her heartbreaking immigration story. “I am the citizen daughter of immigrant parents who were deported when I was 14. My older brother was also deported,” she wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. After her family was deported she recalled feeling incredibly alone. “Not a single person at any level of government took any note of me. No one checked to see if I had a place to live or food to eat, and at 14, I found myself basically on my own.” Because of her experience, she actively works and advocates for immigrant communities with organizations like the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
Allende immigrated from Chile to Venezuela in the midst of Pinochet’s military coup in Chile in the 1970s. Her first novel in itself is actually an interpretation of her immigration story—a way to reflect on her distant homeland and far away past. She moved to the U.S. after falling in love and marrying a San Francisco Bay area attorney. Despite having made California her home since 1989, can still feel as if she is an ‘other’. “I have been a foreigner all my life and I don’t feel I belong anywhere. I’m an immigrant.” With over 51 million books sold, she’s one of the most widely read Spanish language authors. Her foundation advocates for the prevention of violence against women and President Obama awarded her a presidential medal of freedom in 2014.