Editor’s Note: Bambadjan Bamba is an actor, filmmaker, and immigrant rights advocate. He has worked in prominent roles on numerous hit television shows like “The Good Place,” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and in blockbuster films like “Black Panther,” and “Suicide Squad.” Follow him on Twitter @RealBambadjan. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion on CNN.
The Supreme Court’s decision last week to block the Trump administration from ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was definitely unexpected. We, the Dreamers, were all gearing up to see the end of the Obama-era program that has protected us from deportation.
Before the decision came out I tweeted: “If they decided to side with Trump they better be ready because our movement has grown exponentially since the inception of the Dream Act in 2001.” To my delight, and other hundreds of thousands of young Dreamers, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in our favor. Also, just days before that decision, the court left in place a lower court opinion upholding California’s sanctuary laws. Those two landmark decisions are huge for us. These victories mean that all the progress we’ve been making to protect our communities will stay in effect for now.
It’s personal for me because I was at the Supreme Court last November when they started hearing oral arguments. I witnessed that historic moment when Dreamers heroically came out of the court standing side by side and chanting: “Undocumented and un-afraid!” Thousands of people were cheering them on.
That day I also gave one of the most personal and passionate speeches I’ve ever delivered, at the #HomeIsHere rally. I said, “Contrary to popular belief, not all Dreamers come to this country illegally. I came here legally with my parents from Ivory Coast when I was 10 years old and my parents applied for political asylum. Due to the USCIS backlog, it took 20 years for our asylum case to finally get approved. I was excluded from having a green card due to a technicality that was overlooked by Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). When people say, do it legally stand in line, tell them that there is no line. Give us a pathway to citizenship and we will stand in that line today.”
I started elementary school in the 4th grade. I grew up on hip hop and American TV shows. I was homecoming king in high school. I bought my first home in America. My daughter was born in America. And I’m prospering in my career as a Hollywood actor in America.
America is the only country that I know and love, like the many Dreamers who built their entire lives in the country.
As a Black and undocumented immigrant in America, this decision means that in the midst of a pandemic that has erupted economic uncertainty and amid national protests for social justice, I won’t have the added layer of fear and anxiety of being picked up by ICE and losing everything.
This triumph is a temporary sigh of relief. It’s an affirmation that all our efforts are working. That Dreamers have decimated the false narrative of undocumented immigrants as a group of uneducated criminals. That Americans overwhelmingly are in favor of a pathway to citizenship for us.
It’s a little glimmer of hope that we can hold on to for the moment to recharge and get ready for the next fight.
As a Black DACA recipient, my fight isn’t over until we get a long-term legislative solution that would allow us to get permanent legal status and a reform of the criminal justice system. And I mention the criminal justice system because it acts like a “funnel” into the immigration system.
Although only 7% of non-citizens in the United States are Black, we make up 20% of those facing deportation on criminal grounds.
I’m also cognizant that these two landmark decisions come three weeks after George Floyd’s murder, which ignited a powerful movement across the country and the world.
I’ve always believed that the immigrant rights fight is a continuation of the Civil Rights movement. We would not have had the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act if it had not been for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It’s reassuring that the justices are not tone-deaf to what’s going on in the country and the world.
Fearing the worst, like many others, I ended up renewing my DACA application 10 months before it expired, just so I could have as much time as possible. To be undocumented in America is to live in perpetual uncertainty.
I’ve been saying that it feels like a defense mechanism, because we’ve been in the same tumultuous predicament so many times before. Not only has this administration been systematically chipping away at all the progress we’ve made since the introduction of the original proposal for a Dream Act in 2001, but they have also been rigorously attacking legal immigration paths to the US, especially for people from Black and brown nations.
Even though we’re taking a moment to celebrate, we know that unless people come out to vote in November, we will find ourselves in the same predicament next year, because this administration now has the blueprint to lawfully terminate DACA.
Until then, last week’s victory belongs to every Dreamer who chose to go head-to-head with the nation’s highest court and prove that we are as American as everyone else.
To the allies who stood with us and understood that to create a more perfect union they needed to fight with us. To our parents who were the original Dreamers and their endless prayers for us to have a better future in the only country we call home. To all the protesters of every race, tribe and tongue who are out there fighting for social justice. Although the fight is far from being over, let’s rejoice in the fact that our courage was tested and we came out victorious.