This Actor From ‘The Good Place’ Took A Brave Step To Inspire Immigration Reform

“I encourage everybody to tell their story.”

The Good Place actor Bambadjan Bamba — who, fittingly, plays a character named Bambadjan on the show — has a personal reason to advocate for immigration reform. The 35-year-old, who has recurred on the hit NBC comedy since day one, is undocumented


Bamba announced his undocumented status in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, hoping to inspire change in our country's attitude toward immigrants.

The actor explained to the Times he is breaking his silence in response to the Trump administration's efforts to reverse the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program — or DACA, for short — which protects children of immigrants who didn't enter the United States legally.

"I look at my daughter and I'm like, 'If I don't do it, and DACA gets canceled, I could be separated [from her],' " he said. "We just don't know what's going to happen and I'd rather go out fighting."

Much of the rhetoric in this political atmosphere focuses on Mexican immigrants, but Bamba told the Times there are other ethnicities immigrating to the country, too, many of whom are living here peacefully and productively.

"Immigrants are not criminals," he said. "We're not here to take away your jobs. We're here to give back. We're not just Mexicans or Latino. We're black, too. We're from the Middle East, from Asia, too. We're your neighbors, your doctors, the teachers of your children, and sometimes we're on TV in your home, characters that you love. We're just one of you. The only difference is [that you have] a certain piece of paper that's supposed to allow you to navigate freely in the country."

Bamba revealed he found out he was undocumented when he was in high school and trying to get financial aid for college. That's when his parents told him they hadn't been able to get asylum. Undeterred, Bamba attended the Conservatory of Film and Dramatic Arts and drove taxis to help pay for his tuition.

"I figured if I kept working hard at it, if I keep doing the right thing, if I'm super successful, then I'll become a citizen eventually," he said. "That hasn't happened yet."

The actor, who has a part in Marvel's upcoming Black Panther film, told BuzzFeed News he has encountered delays and barriers in his efforts to apply for legal status — as every day "[about 800] people are losing their status because DACA hasn't been extended."

"[Being undocumented] is like this thing you want to forget, but you keep getting reminded of," he said to the Times. "And it's not just a simple reminder; you're having nightmares."

Bamba is also working with the Screen Actors Guild and NBCUniversal to work out his career options, and he's optimistic he'll get to continue appearing on The Good Place. He already has the support of Mike Schur, the creator of the show.

"I didn't know he was technically undocumented until today, and finding out only makes him more impressive to me — that he accomplished so much while living under that cloud of uncertainty," Schur said in an email to BuzzFeed News. "We always want Bambadjan around our show, and Congress should be working overtime to figure out how to keep him, and people like him, here … He is funny, kind, talented, and as American as I am."

And speaking of being American, Bamba wants people to understand what that really means.

"At the bottom line, this is an immigrant nation," he told the Times. "It was founded by immigrants. America said, 'Bring me your poor. Bring me your downtrodden. Bring me all those who are being persecuted, and they will have a safe place.' That's still valid today even though the immigrants that are coming are not all from Europe anymore. I believe America has a responsibility to those words and those ideals."

Bamba also shared advice for fellow undocumented Americans. "I encourage everybody to tell their story and tell it often and tell it as loud as possible the same way I'm doing," he said to BuzzFeed News. "The last thing I want is for an American person to say, 'Hey, I don't know anybody that's undocumented.' "

Cover photo via Instagram


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