Bambadjan Bamba
Publicity photo by

Black Panther actor Bambadjan Bamba is calling on Congress to act to help Dreamers like him.

In an opinion piece for CNN, Bamba told his immigration story, saying that he felt he had to speak out, even risk his career, when he saw “other DACA recipients with much less than I have risking their freedom to protest and petition for a fix to the broken immigration system.”

Bamba described how he arrived with his parents from the Ivory Coast when he was 10 years old. His family applied for asylum, because they were fleeing political persecution. They continued to try to work within the system to get a legal immigration status, something Bamba said he didn’t understand until high school when he realized he couldn’t get scholarships even if he earned them because he was technically an illegal immigrant while his case was “pending.”

“Oftentimes, the willingness and struggles of immigrants to obtain or keep legal status is left out of the media’s coverage. They fell prey to unscrupulous immigration lawyers who ripped them off because resources for Black immigrants were limited,” he wrote.

“Bamba means resilient”

Bamba also wrote about how he was able to find success despite his “pending” status.

“But my name, Bamba, means “resilient” in Dioula (Madingo)—a language spoken in Ivory Coast, and I would have to live up to my name. So I picked myself up and worked my way through drama school without financial aid, avoiding auditions for any role that would require me to work internationally because I knew I couldn’t travel. If I left, there were no guarantees I’d be let back in,” he wrote.

“While I was trying to maneuver through life without legal status, I was also dealing with the realities of being Black in America. To be Black without papers meant that I was walking on an additional layer of eggshells—never wanting to appear too aggressive or suspicious,” he added. “In my case and the case of many Black immigrants, it could have also led to criminalization and deportation proceedings.”

“DACA was a lifeline”

In the midst of this long struggle, Bamba wrote, when then President Barack Obama extended protections for the Dreamers, everything changed.

“By the time the DACA program began under President Barack Obama in 2012, I must have had dozens of consultations with immigration lawyers who told me there was no option for me to adjust my status. DACA was a lifeline that allowed me to continue pursuing my dream of becoming an actor,” he wrote.

“I felt fortunate that I made the program’s age limit of 31 by a couple of months. It was nerve-wracking putting all the documents together, but DACA was my only option. I applied, was accepted and worked my way up in Hollywood.”

He later added, “DACA was a dream come true. As an actor, it gave me the confidence to book more work and speak my mind a little louder without fear that my status would be used against me. But most importantly, it gave me some peace of mind that I wasn’t going to get separated from my family.”

Bamba called on Congress to pass the DREAM Act to help others like him realize their dream.

You can read the full piece here and visit Define American for other immigration stories.