Actor Bambadjan Bamba reveals undocumented status: ‘We just can’t be scared anymore’
Motivated by Burning Man-in Chief Donald Trump’s looming DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) repeal, the thirty-five-year-old TV and film actor Bambadjan Bamba has revealed his immigration status as an undocumented person who has been working in America using the aid of a work permit he obtained through DACA (which is subject to renewal every two years).
Bambadjan Bamba told Variety “I’m going public first and foremost because I’m sick and tired of living in fear and hiding about this issue… I’ve kind of been in this status for 25 years of my life. I remember when the administration decided to cancel DACA — that was the last straw for me because not only am I married, but I have a daughter now. I didn’t feel like I could still sit back and keep hitting the snooze button.”
Bamba has been living in America since the age of 10, when he emigrated to America with his parents who were escaping a coup d’etat in the Ivory Coast, Bamba grew up in the South Bronx, where he used hip-hop to learn how to speak English in an American accent. It was not until he started applying for college, however, that he became exposed to the legal ramifications of his immigration status and wound up working as a cab driver to pay for acting classes because his citizenship status made him ineligible for financial aid.
Bamba is hoping that this campaign will push Congress to create a clean DREAM act, but given what this particular Congress is known for doing (nothing), that seems as though it is hoping against hope. Bamba also tells the LA Times:
I speak with an American accent now because of the story I told you of my childhood. I’m an actor, and it works when you have both accents. No one imagines, no one thinks in their wildest dreams that I’m undocumented. There’s also a lot of resources and organizations set up for Latino immigrants, because they’re the majority. Black immigrants really don’t have that much support… and for people from the Caribbean or Africa, there’s a shame culture around being undocumented. No one even wants to come out and talk about it.
Bamba also spoke of the dual oppression he faces as a Black undocumented person when the LA Times asked him about the news that Trump would rescind DACA:
We’re back here again. [Being undocumented] is like this thing you want to forget, but you keep getting reminded of. And it’s not just a simple reminder; you’re having nightmares. I have friends who had nervous breakdowns the day before they’re supposed to go see a judge. There’s a lot of fear around the issue because they criminalize you. You’re just here to go to school. Your parents can’t pay for the school. Next thing you know, you’re undocumented, and you’re a criminal, and you’re sent to jail. It’s just this spiral. It’s a little different when you’re black and you’re an immigrant because the cop doesn’t care that you’re an immigrant at first. You’re just black. You’re dealing with all those issues. When he finds out you’re an immigrant, he’s like, “Oh, okay. I got you now.”
Since his ‘coming out’ Bamba has become a public face for immigrants working in Hollywood and he hopes that this visibility Hollywood affords him and by extension, the immigrants he represents will put pressure on the policy discussions around immigration and around immigrants.
Only time will tell if this strategy will work, and if the public pressure that Bamba and others hope will result in a positive gain for those who are still living within two-year windows, fighting off deportations. We certainly support the human rights of immigrants and believe that they deserve to stay in the country and make the lives that they deserve without living in fear of raids or deportations.