By Mwabi Kaira
“The Sunday before the announcement, the President called a national day of prayer for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. So I posted on social media, “here’s one thing we can agree on.” Then a friend hit me up and said, ‘what are you agreeing with him for? He wants to cancel DACA!’ I thought, no way. Then sure enough, the following week they announced the cancellation. My heart sank. It was the same hopelessness that I felt before I got DACA. I looked at my daughter and I knew I had to do something.” -Bambadjan Bamba
For Bamba, who was brought to America as a child by his parents who were fleeing political persecution, and didn’t discover that he was undocumented until college when he was applying for financial aid, the American Dream is more than just a slogan. In America, he discovered the English language through his love of hip hop, African Americans and the way they have your back no questions asked, and the ultimate prize of becoming a Hollywood actor. Bamba has appeared in multiple TV shows and will play in the highly anticipated Black Panther film. In America, he also met his wife and welcomed a little girl. America is Bamba’s home, and now it might be taken away if Congress can’t pass a law.
Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, aka DACA, enacted in 2012, immigrants who entered the U.S. as children have been able to receive renewable two-year deferred action from deportation so that they can work or go to school. For a while it looked like the over 700,000 ‘Dreamers,’ as they are called, might actually have a pathway to citizenship. But with this current administration, it doesn’t seem likely. Every day 122 Dreamers lose their status; 11,000 dreamers have lost their status already. Democrats are fighting to save DACA by threatening to shut down the government on December 22nd, and there are multiple DACA replacement bills being introduced to Congress. If a bill passes before the March 5 deadline, qualified applicants will be able to remain in the US legally.
But nothing is certain, and Bamba couldn’t just sit around in limbo, waiting for something to happen.
“I was always embarrassed by my status and was hiding behind fear. Fear of getting deported, fear of career suicide, but after having my daughter I knew that I had to step out and face it head on. I never want to be separated from my family,” says Bamba.
|Bambadjan Bamba with his family in LA via Define American|
So he teamed up with Define American, an organization that helps immigrants share their story, and went public about his DACA status. It’s definitely a risky move, some have called him crazy. He hopes that his position as a Hollywood actor can help bring awareness to the issue, and put a face to DACA. He’s also urging Hollywood to stand with him. He says,
“There are so many immigrants working in Hollywood behind the scenes and in front of the camera and we need them to stand with us. We need the studio heads to stand with us.”
|Bamba being supported by 5th St. Studios Casting in LA|
So far, support has been overwhelming from Bamba’s peers including actors Mark Ruffalo, Alyssa Milano and the creator of NBC’s ‘The Good Place,’ where Bamba is a recurring character. He’s also shared his story with the LA Times, CNN, and NPR.
|Bamba on the set of ‘The Good Place’|
The media will have you thinking DACA is just a Mexican issue, but there are an estimated 3.7 million foreign-born black immigrants who aren’t citizens, and many are facing deportation if a bill isn’t passed. Call your representative. Take a picture and #standwithBamba #standwithdaca #defenddaca #dreamactnow and sign the petition here!