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What is Superman's Citizenship Status?

by Skyler 2 years ago in superheroes
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Immigration Lesson

Mankind has a track record of horrible abuse. We abuse women, animals, the environment, and even our fellow man. Not to make these things sound inconsequential, but humanity itself has a pension for abusing far more. We abuse the English language.

How many times have you or someone labeled a psychologically impaired person as insane? Yet, insane is a legal term, not a clinical one. Enter the realm of politics, and depending on your side, you may hurl the label of socialist or fascist at the opposition. One term that gets constant use is illegal alien or illegal immigrant. In 21st century American politics, this issue is at the forefront. Now you will not find illegal alien anywhere in the legislation or illegal immigrant. Instead, you will find undocumented immigrants. Time and time again, people bring up Superman and his status. You can find political cartoons jesting at it.


Superman is not an undocumented immigrant! The proper term is refugee. Sadly, even these terms are thrown around, interchangeably like synonyms. Immigrant denotes someone who willfully migrates from one country to another. Some of the reasons for moving can include education, better job opportunities, or to be with family. Many Americans know of the old European immigrant stories from 19th - 20th century America. Most of these immigrants are looking to leave behind Europe and chase the American Dream.

A refugee denotes someone seeking asylum, as they flee armed conflict or persecution. Many Jews fled Nazi Germany for obvious reasons. During the Cold War, Southeast Asia produced a decent number of refugees, as many fled regimes such as the Khmer Rouge. Refugees also cannot return to their homes, for it may lead to their death. Another difference is refugees are eager to leave their home, that little to no planning is involved. They may reach our shores with no luggage, no money, and no possible shelter.

Of course, immigrants may share some of these problems as well. They may come to America with little money or planning. Immigrants may be looking to leave a bad situation as well, such as economic downturn, natural disaster, or other reasons. However, undocumented immigrants do not face direct death or persecution if they return home. Refugees do have legal protections from deportation and obtain access to social services. Whereas, undocumented immigrants do not have these benefits, unfortunately. Understand, deporting a refugee can be a sentence to death.

The Voyage of The Damned, aboard the MS St. Louis, is telling and sad tale. Over 900 Jewish refugees inhabit this ship that looks for asylum in the Western Hemisphere in 1939. All of them hoping to escape Nazi Germany. Cuba, the United States, and Canada all turn down the refugees. Eventually and sadly, they make their way back to continental Europe. Great Britain takes some, as does France and Belgium. By the end of the war, over 200 Jewish asylum seekers will die, all because of the denial of refuge.

We all know Superman's origin. In a sense, he is an extraterrestrial Moses. His home world of Krypton is dead, along with his parents, and all at such a young age. Imagine trying to send an infant back to space. Plus, there is no home to send him back to anyways! Finally, how can one charge him with anything illegal, given his parents jettison him to our planet as an infant?

The Debate

Why does this keep being brought up? Again, immigration policy is a hot topic in American politics. DC Comics even addresses this in Lois Lane #9. Many on the right have come to use the term illegal immigrant/illegal alien as something of a pejorative. President Trump says, "These aren't people. These are animals." Note that it is common to draw the enemy as inhuman, therefore making it easier to combat them.

Meanwhile, on the left, there exists a vast defense for undocumented immigrants. Many are quick to use Superman's so-called 'undocumented immigrant' status as a talking point. There are two reasons why they rely on this tactic. Superman is an iconic hero and not an animal or rapist, as President Trump would paint undocumented immigrants to be. Plus, many on the American right grew up with Superman, and still hold him up as the epitome of Truth, Justice and the American Way. Therefore, an attack on Superman is an attack on America then, right?

Addressing the United States' immigration policy is an individual discourse. We can, however, educate ourselves on the legal definitions of said terms if we want to have a well-informed debate. I highly doubt people will drop the 'undocumented immigrant' status of Superman. It is a feather in their cap for the culture war in a sense. Do we want to continue the culture war with the 'gotcha' moment, or do we want to make real headway on immigration policy? Personally, I feel Americans on both sides prefer the former. Maybe we all, including myself, just need a little hope from Superman in this matter.

If you like what you read here, please feel free to leave a like, and a tip.


Alison Eldridge, What’s the Difference Between a Migrant and a Refugee?, Encyclopaedia Britannica

Kristina Gasson, Who Is an Undocumented Immigrant?, Nolo

Amy Tikkanen, MS St. Louis, Encyclopaedia Britannica


About the author


Full-time worker, history student and an avid comic book nerd.

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