Bambadjan Bamba is just one of nearly a million young immigrants who came to the US as children and received temporary status under the Obama era policy called DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“When the administration says they wanted to cancel DACA, that’s when I decided I couldn’t stay quiet anymore,” Bamba told CNN in a recent interview.
That’s why the 36-year-old, a son of immigrants who sought and received asylum, is now speaking out about his status. A working actor for 10 years, Bamba has appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, from “Grey’s Anatomy” to “Suicide Squad.”
“I needed to use my voice as an actor to try to humanize this issue and try to put a face and a voice to who DACA recipients really are,” Bamba said.
Bamba spoke French and the Mande language Jula when he arrived in a South Bronx school as a frightened 10-year-old, but he didn’t speak a lick of English. Teachers put him in an all-Spanish class, where, he recalled, he felt more lost than ever.
“The African kid who spoke French was tricking me all day,” Bamba said with a laugh. “I asked him, ‘Hey, I want to go to the bathroom. How do I say that?’ And he goes, ‘Kiss my butt.'”
Bamba’s family eventually left the South Bronx and settled in Richmond, Virginia, where they opened up a hair-braiding business that they still operate today.
Eventually, his parents were successful in their application for political asylum and have since become naturalized US citizens. But by the time they got asylum Bamba was 21, too old to share in his parents’ newly won status; underscoring how lengthy and complicated the immigration process can be, even when would-be legal immigrants follow the rules.