“Illegal alien” is a phrase that has come to encompass Latinx immigrants of brownness, branding our South and Central American neighbors as both criminal and foreign upon a mere glance. Given the history of this nation and it’s irrefutable development from immigration, it’s inconceivable for this country to stigmatize anyone behind such offensive terms; especially when Superman, a literal illegal alien, has been adopted as one of the all-time American superheroes.

The origin of America’s Man of Steel is one of little surprise. Superman’s history has remained mostly consistent throughout its various depictions in television, comic books, and film. Behind his familiar background, however, there’s a story that resonates in the heart of the immigrant journey.

An alien from Krypton, Kal-El was launched into space to escape the inevitable destruction of his homeworld in search of a new life. This desire, to not simply survive, but to seek opportunity, is perhaps the core motive for leaving one’s country. Unlike the privileged American, who possesses the open freedom to explore for the sake of adventure and excitement, the majority of people migrating from their homeland aren’t doing so for recreation. Citizens departing places like Syria, the Middle East, and Central America are doing so with a sense of urgency and desperation — and the United States is their beacon of hope for a new life. Much like the first European immigrants looking to secede from British rule.

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Somewhere along the line, however, appreciation for immigrants frayed from our hope-invoking country, and Americans’ empathy was swallowed by the mouth of patriotism; compassion consumed by pride. There’s an unhealthy nature within American society to view other countries as inferior, in turn, impeding our ability to understanding the struggles of the immigrant community. It seems that if your country isn’t on the brink of destruction, like Krypton, you have little to no reason to leave.

The most troubling aspect lies within the intuitive mindset of our society to see immigration as a threat; an issue that has become widely advertised under the Trump administration. This perception is extremely perplexing in that to acquire such a notion one must be completely disjointed from our nation’s past. U.S. history wears a mask stitched with a thread of innocence and freedom for all. The reality, however, is that the United States is a country that hasn’t only impeded on the freedoms of other nations in the past but frequently continues to do so.

America’s Hand in Generating Immigration from Other Countries

Aside from military interference, such as the unnecessary war in Iraq over claimed nuclear weaponry, the historical tragedy of the atomic bombing of Japan, or the ongoing drone strikes in the Middle East, the United States has affected other countries both politically and economically. Some of the United State’s impact on South and Central America include the Panama Canal and the highly controversial NAFTA deal.

Under Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, the United States, who for many years held an interest in transporting goods from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, saw the opportunity in acquiring the Panama Canal. However, due to Colombia’s denial for a treaty ratification because of financial disagreements, the United States took it upon themselves to support and aid in the uprising of Panama’s independence. Once Panama successfully seceded from Colombia, they granted the U.S. control over the canal. The United Sates’ ultimate decision to send militarized warships to Panama, to oppose any Colombian interference, was met with extensive criticism from both American and Colombian citizens.

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So unethical was the United States’ involvement in establishing Panama’s independence from Colombia for business profits that, after Theodore Roosevelt’s death, the U.S. signed an agreement paying 25 million dollars to Colombia (an agreement that was earlier declined because of Roosevelt’s political influence). America’s interference with Colombian government was not only seen as highly immoral but also caused many Latin American countries to become wary with United States dealings.

A perhaps more relevant Latin American country, Mexico, has also found itself greatly affected by the hands of the United States government. As Trump remains adamant on the construction of his border wall to protect the country from alleged “bad hombres,” Mexico’s past immigration movement has much to do with American international trading policies.

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The president’s administration and their perspectives on Mexican immigration are a humorous contradiction indeed. With the birth of President Clinton’s NAFTA in 1994, the United States, Canada, and Mexico looked to strengthen their economies by opening up trade barriers. Out of that deal, however, Mexico drew the shortest straw. As a result, U.S. business companies were allowed to sweep through the country, establishing factories that created jobs of low wages.

Even worse was the high level of cheap U.S. imported corn and grains that forced countless Mexican farmers out of work. Though the NAFTA deal, in fact, provided Mexican citizens with popular Northern consumer goods, it did little to help their economy. On the contrary, U.S. corporate involvement brought Mexico’s already small middle-class population to more of a lower class standing. The only ones to truly reap the rewards from the three-way international deal were the major corporate organizations.

With the United State’s hands tied to a ruined Mexican economy, shouldn’t there be more consideration for Mexican immigration? How can our country and its people set fire to the political and economic structures of other countries and close the door behind them? This surely strays from the ideals that this country was founded upon. How can a nation representing liberty and justice for all conduct itself with such morals?

In short, the unfortunate truth is that Americans, as a society, have never come to accept their own immigration roots; as proven by the recent approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline built over indigenous treaty land. The initial attempted genocide of Native Americans never seems to be stressed enough within the history books, and though we as Americans are very much aware of its existence, there’s still a grand absence of empathy.

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It would seem that a government formed through not only illegal European immigration but also notorious criminal actions such as slavery and genocide, would surely have to acknowledge its immigrant identity. The continual oppression and injustices brought upon today’s indigenous communities, however, reveals how instead of embracing our nation’s immigrant-based foundation we, in turn, treat the originators of this land as foreigners. It’s this denial of reality that has come to encompass the new admiration’s stance on immigration.

U.S. Acceptance: Superman Vs Immigrants of Color

So, how has a country currently skeptical about South and Central American immigration come to admire the fictional biography of DC’s Man of Steel? Though Superman’s history is a tale of fiction, his story still very much reflects the immigrant journey. From adopting a new American identity to concealing his life as an outsider out of fear of public perception, and having difficulty conforming to an entirely different world, Superman symbolizes the average immigrant experience.

Unlike his international recognition as Superman, most immigrants aren’t searching for the limelight; most would rather live the quiet life of his alter ego, Clark Kent. Also, unlike Superman’s openness to the world as an intergalactic outsider, the reality is that most immigrants of color wouldn’t receive such warm understanding. Of course, one could argue that a major distinction between the Man of Steel and current entering immigrants is that he lived in the United States since childhood. However, given the continual rejection of the federal DREAM Act (which would provide legal citizenship to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children), it’s clear that there’s an alternate cause for such disparity.

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Perhaps the acceptance of Superman as an immigrant and undocumented extraterrestrial derives not from his god-like powers, but rather from his validation as a hero. Could it be his decision to use his abilities for the good of humanity that has won him acceptance among our nation’s born citizens? If so, the question then is, “if Superman had been an alien of color, would he still have come to be the iconic American hero he is today?”

Aside from his debut in 1938, a time of great racial inequality, it’s still difficult to perceive Superman’s widespread fame if he was introduced as a being of color in modern times. In fact, there’s yet to be a hero of color who gained half as much prevalence as Superman and other iconic White American heroes. Therefore, perhaps Superman’s greatest strength as an accepted immigrant doesn’t necessarily lie behind the greatness of his abilities, but rather the color of his skin.

This idea is not as far-fetched as it may seem. One simply needs to look at a wall of U.S. Presidents to see the faces most associated with American history. There’s no denying that the term “American” usually invokes the image of a white male. Further proof of this fact can be found within the labels of our language. We have coined popular ethnic terms such as “African American,” “Hispanic American,” “Asian American,” and so on to describe American-born people of color. There doesn’t seem to be such a term for White Americans. In fact, even indigenous people are recognized as Native American, while born citizens of European descent fall under no such ethnic label. Most White-born Americans are never capped with a European-American label. Even in our use of language, an apparent color bias is revealed.

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The significance of this color bias has impacted the nation’s perception towards immigrants on many different platforms. For one, it has made immigrants of color the focus of various immigrant issues including criminal acts and the “stealing” of American jobs. Studies, however, have revealed contrasting evidence between the nation’s assumptions of immigrants and their natural presence in the country.

Immigrants of Color Misconceived as Villains: What do Statistics Show? 

Unlike the symbol of hope and protection Superman popularly represents, immigrants of color, especially under the new Trump administration, have been stigmatized as villains. From the recently blocked travel ban on Muslim countries to his infamous public speech alluding to most Mexican immigrants being rapists and criminals, Donald Trump has continuously targeted immigrants of color by labeling them as terrorists and lawbreakers.

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Contrary to his administration’s reasoning behind imposing such a ban, there’s been no evidence proving that any immigrants from the seven banned countries have committed a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. In fact, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Lebanon (which made up the 19 hijackers of the 9-11 bombers) weren’t even included in the administration’s ban. This exemption has raised significant criticism regarding Trump’s decision, especially given his business ties to Saudi Arabia. It’s also important to note that both the Boston Bombing and the Orlando Shooting attacks were carried out by American citizens.

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As for the “rapist and criminal” Mexican immigrants, according to census analyses from 1980-2010 reported by a New York Times article in January 2017; the data shows that only about five percent of both federal and state inmates are non-citizens. The analyses also revealed that among men 18-49 years of age, immigrants were up to one-half to one-fifth as likely to be incarcerated compared to born U.S. citizens. The U.S. census for the year 2000 shows that only about 0.7 percent of foreign-born Mexican immigrants faced incarceration.

If anything, the data from both census reports are congruent with the fact that U.S. born citizens are drastically more likely to commit crimes, and are the overall contributors to crime in the United States. So, though it might be easier to blame U.S. crime rates and terrorist attacks on immigrants of color, statistics prove that instead of it being an external issue, it’s most certainly is an internal one.

This misrepresentation of immigrants of color is even more evident when it comes to their perception within the workforce. For many years there’s been significant debate regarding Mexican immigrants stealing jobs away from U.S. citizens. Unlike the Man of Steel’s alter ego. However, most immigrants from Mexico aren’t being employed as reporters, nor as scientists, teachers, lawyers, etc. Again, in contrast to popular opinion, statistics from the 2014 U.S Census Bureau displays occupations such as service jobs, construction, and transportation to be among the highest percentage performed by Mexican immigrants.

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The most intriguing aspect of these reports, however, are the percentages presented about European immigrant occupations. According to the same 2014 U.S. Census, European immigrants held the highest percent of employment for jobs in management, business, science, and the arts. More intriguing is that within these fields of occupation, European immigrants held a higher percentage of employment than even native-born U.S. citizens. European immigrants also held the lowest percentage in service occupations when compared to all immigrants, including native-born citizens.

The most surprising revelation is that European immigrants were shown as having significantly higher incomes than not only all foreign-born immigrants but also the U.S native-born population. The median average for all European immigrants was reported to be $60,000. Thus, even among U.S. workforce statistics there exists a color bias.

Despite factual evidence suggesting otherwise, immigrants of color are continually being presented like Apokoliptic Parademons while other immigrants, such as Europeans, remain hidden from public view like Superman concealed behind a pair of spectacles.

Embracing the New Age

This distorted judgment about the presence of today’s immigrants not only exposes the United State’s specific fear of a color changing America but also its persistent and underlying desire to retain its familiar and historical White image.

In such modern and progressive artistic times, however, we should look towards the diversifying world of comics to accept change. Our attraction and admiration for characters such as Superman provide immense insight into the evolutionary ideals we should strive to pursue.

Sure, within almost every comic universe there has been some outside, extraterrestrial threat. Yet, with every Brainiac, General Zod, and Darkseid there’s a Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, and Man of Steel. Like the new Superman family, trying to live and balance themselves in a strange and unfamiliar world, rather than perpetuate fear we should learn to view the true strengths immigrants of color contribute to our country. Being a nation birthed from immigration, instead of building walls we should be extending a trusting hand.

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From the Golden to the Modern Age of comics, all great comic universes undergo change, and with our current political and economic standing, our nation seems on the brink of its own convergence. What better time for a U.S. Rebirth!

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