Black Actor Risks It All to Reveal His Immigration Status
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 11/29/2017, 12:52 p.m.
Since President Donald Trump’s September decision to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Hollywood-based actor Bambadjan Bamba has been preparing for his coming out. The “Black Panther” actor had not publicly revealed his immigration status, but Tuesday he took the bold step of joining a campaign to legalize immigrants like him, becoming the public face of DACA recipients working in Hollywood, reports Variety. DACA is the Obama-era program granted temporary resident status to an estimated 800,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. “We know the industry is run by a lot of immigrants,” Bamba said. “There are immigrant actors,” he said, adding that, “Hollywood can play a big part in at least changing policy so that it can be easier for actors to work in Hollywood.” Bamba, 35, has managed to work for a decade in Hollywood, thanks in part to a work permit secured through DACA. He currently has a recurring role on NBC’s “The Good Place” and will play a military leader in the upcoming Marvel film, “Black Panther.” “I’m going public first and foremost because I’m sick and tired of living in fear and hiding about this issue,” he said. “I’ve kind have 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 was just 10 years old when, fleeing persecution, he came to the U.S. with his parents from the West African country of Ivory Coast. He grew up in the south Bronx, developing his English-speaking skills by listening to hip-hop artists such as Snoop Dogg and Mase. It wasn’t until he began applying for colleges that he learned the legal realities of his immigration status, which made him ineligible for financial aid. He worked as a cab driver to help pay for drama school. By coming out now to share his story, Bamba said he hopes his and the efforts of others can convince Congress to pass a bill that would legalize Dreamers, immigrants brought into the country as children. No official tally of how many Dreamers work in the entertainment business exists. But analysts project the number is high, considering Hollywood is one of the region’s biggest employers. The California Employment Development Dept. estimates there are 140,000 people in the entertainment industry, which pumps billions into the Los Angeles economy. “My goal is to get a clean Dream Act passed,” Bamba said. “That’s what we are all fighting for right now.”