Ugly Betty star America Ferrera says her new effort to push Latinos to vote isn't just personal— it's critical to roll back the tide of strict immigration laws being passed across the nation.
The 28-year-old actress recounted to msnbc's Al Sharpton on Thursday how she felt labeled as an "other" while growing up in Los Angeles during the '90s push for Proposition 187, a racially-charged ballot initiative (later deemed unconstitutional) that banned illegal immigrants from benefiting from public schools, health care, and social services.
She recounted her mother telling her at the age of 8 or 9 that "people might ask you questions" and urging the young girl to understand that "You are an American. You have every right to be heard. Don't be intimidated. Don't be afraid."
"That has stuck with me," Ferrera told Politics Nation host.
"Nearly 20 years later, people are living with this now, and in even more aggressive ways," she said, pointing to laws in controversial new immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama that allow police officers to demand the papers of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally.
"It's shameful that any American would stand for this type of intimidation."
Ferrera, whose parents were born in Honduras, launched a new voter outreach program called America4America on Thursday. She said the campaign wasn't about a particular political party or any one candidate.
"This year and this election is a really critical time for the Latino community," she said. "And it's a critical time in our history as all Americans, not just Latinos. This issue of making voting hard, making registering to vote difficult, is against what all Americans believe in."