The ‘Black Panther’ actor who is an undocumented ‘Dreamer’

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LOS ANGELES, June 13, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – On the hit sitcom “The Good Place,”
Bambadjan Bamba plays an eternal being in the afterlife. In reality, the
Ivorian actor is living in limbo in the United States as an undocumented
immigrant.

The 36-year-old Bamba, who most recently appeared in “Black Panther,” is
one of 700,000 “Dreamers” — immigrants brought illegally to America as
children who were protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals (DACA) program.

“For a while, I wanted to share my story but I was paralyzed in fear,” he
said in an interview with AFP as he picked up a human rights award in Los
Angeles from the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I just didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. I didn’t want to put my career
on the line, and even my family on the line.”

Bamba’s family fled political instability in the west African state of
Ivory Coast in 1993 and he arrived in the US when he was 10.

Bamba then spent his teenage years between New York’s South Bronx and
Richmond, Virginia.

The young French speaker learned English quickly and got into New York’s
Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, driving taxis to pay the fees.

It was during the college applications process, when Bamba was thinking
about financial aid, that his parents revealed they had no legal status in
the United States.

They were eventually granted political asylum, but Bamba was 21 by then —
too old to share the new rights they had won.

– ‘A lot of fear’ –

Despite his undocumented status, the aspiring star began picking up acting
jobs and has appeared in more than two dozen television shows such as “Law
and Order,” “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

In 2016, he secured a recurring part as a human rights activist and secret
celestial torturer in NBC sitcom “The Good Place,” and has since appeared in
small roles in two comic book blockbusters — “Black Panther” and “Suicide
Squad.”

Like thousands in his situation, Bamba felt like his world had collapsed
when President Donald Trump canceled the DACA program last year, leaving
Dreamers vulnerable to deportation at any moment.

The court system has ordered that the scheme continue, but the uncertainty
surrounding their status remains.

“It has really been volatile. There’s so much uncertainty in our
communities. There’s a lot of fear and we don’t know what’s going to happen
next,” he told AFP.

“Most of us have families, degrees, have careers, have made our lives here,
and we really don’t know what’s going to happen month to month.”

Bamba had told very few people of his citizenship status but decided to
speak out in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in November of last
year. “I have a wife and a daughter. She’s one-and-a-half years old. Back in
November, that really spurred my decision,” Bamba told AFP.

“I looked at her and I wanted her to know her father stood for something
and stood for her, especially right now when families are being torn apart at
the border.”

– Black cloud –

Bamba says friends and colleagues have been incredibly supportive since he
“came out,” and his fears that it would nix his career turned out to be
unfounded.

He told the LA Times his biggest worry was being hauled off set by
immigration officials during a shoot. He works a lot in Canada or elsewhere
abroad but always worries about getting back into the United States.

The Republican-led Congress failed earlier this year to pass immigration
reform proposals, including one championed by Trump that would have resolved
the legal status of 1.8 million migrants.

Lawmakers are working on a new solution that would include measures to
boost border security and reform legal immigration but, for the time being,
the uncertainty is a black cloud hanging over the Dreamers.

“I’m still being vocal but, to my surprise — I guess this was a little
naive of me — I thought we would have a solution by now. I thought we would
have a Dream Act passed by now,” said Bamba.

“I thought, with the government shutdowns and all those things that
happened, that we would have something on the table. So the fact that we
don’t have anything helps me know that the fight continues and that I have to
continue to do my part.”

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