Black Panther Actor Bambadjan Bamba Is a Dreamer

He came to America unable to speak English.


Screenshot via CNN

The cast of Black Panther, currently the biggest movie in America, includes at least one beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA allowed people who came to the country as kids to avoid deportation and apply for work permits—allowances the Trump administration is now working to end.

Bambadjan Bamba, 36, has only a small role in the film. But the part still feels like a major accomplishment, given his background: When he was 10 years old, he and his family fled the politically unstable west African nation of Ivory Coast. Arriving in the U.S., Bamba didn't speak any English.

CNN reports:

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. 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.

Watch the interview here.

I only make note of this story because it underscores just how hard DACA recipients, and immigrants more broadly, have worked to obtain the American dream. We're lucky to have them in this country, making our society more prosperous.

For more on why Republicans should give permanent citizenship to DACA recipients, read Reason's Shikha Dalmia on Rush Limbaugh's proposal to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants if they agree to forfeit their voting rights for 20 years.