Is Thor an illegal immigrant?

Superman’s immigration status has been considered here before, and recently I received a link (thanks, Rick!) to this great piece: Is The Avengers’ Thor an Illegal Alien?, written by Jake Lipman, an immigration attorney with Lipman & Wolf, LLP.  Check it out!

21 responses to “Is Thor an illegal immigrant?

  1. While it doesn’t necessarily matter given the appropriateness of other visa options (particularly O-1), I wonder if the author was a bit too quick to dismiss H-1B. Astronaut is a profession which generally requires bachelor’s degree, and while Thor may not be able to offer up such a degree, he can -certainly- show equivalent specialized training and work experience travelling to other planets, and it is fairly relevant to his position as far as the dealing with alien threats portion of his duties.

  2. Since “illegal immigrant” refers to A) people who are immigrants (which Thor is not) and B) people who are, you know, human (which Thor is not), wouldn’t it be more accurate to question whether or not he is an invasive species subject to quarantine and/or exclusion?

    In any case, Thor also pops into the U.K. without being inspected by U.K. entry protocols, and all of the Avengers popped into Germany without stopping for paperwork.

    How do they do it when officers of foreign countries take part in cross-training exercises with American armed forces? That seems like the best match for S.H.I.E.L.D. to have in place for when its officers (not all of whom are American (cough Black Widow cough) need to cross borders in pursuit of official S.H.I.E.L.D. business.

    • Under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a):

      (3) The term “alien” means any person not a citizen or national of the United States.

      (15) The term “immigrant” means every alien except an alien who is within one of the following classes of nonimmigrant aliens—
      (i) an ambassador, public minister, or career diplomatic or consular officer who has been accredited by a foreign government, recognized de jure by the United States and who is accepted by the President or by the Secretary of State, and the members of the alien’s immediate family;
      (ii) upon a basis of reciprocity, other officials and employees who have been accredited by a foreign government recognized de jure by the United States, who are accepted by the Secretary of State, and the members of their immediate families; and
      (iii) upon a basis of reciprocity, attendants, servants, personal employees, and members of their immediate families, of the officials and employees who have a nonimmigrant status under (i) and (ii) above;

      Thus, assuming Thor is treated as a legal person, he is an alien and (probably) an immigrant, since he probably doesn’t fall under any of those 3 exceptions. Although he might possibly fall under (i) and (ii) after de jure recognition, but that wouldn’t be the case when he first arrives.

      As for whether or not he is a legal person: the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to gloss over that issue and treat anyone who looks and acts sufficiently human as though they are human for legal purposes.

      • James Pollock

        You’re making an assumption I’m not… the courts have consistently declined to extend personhood beyond the human species.

        So, there’s a practical matter (can we really do anything about it if Asgardian tourists want to come and visit, say, the Grand Canyon) as well as a tricky legal one (since we allow Asgardians to roam freely, can the Chitauri bring a federal Civil Rights suit alleging systematic unequal treatment by law enforcement under color of law?

        It seems to me that invasive species inquiry rather than immigration is the way to solve that last problem.

        Then we could move on to the part Mr. Lipman didn’t cover. Having determined that Thor is, in fact, an illegal alien, does that obligate anybody to actually do anything about it. (Yes, I understand fully why Mr. Lipman didn’t include a discussion of this point. I do not have his constraints.)

        First, some exposition.
        Congress provides enough resources to provide about 400,000 deportation hearings per year. Sometimes people win their hearings (they prove that some aspect of U.S. law allows them to stay) but the number of deportation hearings places a cap on the number of deportations that may be performed. It is not enough, and everybody, including the President and Congress, is fully aware of this, but when the President went to Congress to ask for authorization and funding to increase the number, Congress declined to act. Therefore, although the statute implies that the President is to remove all illegal entrants, Congress accedes to the fact that some will not be removed. The President prioritizes three categories to the head of the line for a deportation hearing: Felons, recent arrivals, and repeat offenders. (Note that “The President” as used in the preceding sentences is not limited to the current President; every President since Reagan has had the same policy.) Persons who are none of these may wait years for a deportation hearing and it seems likely that some of them will never receive one.
        In recent years, there have been legislative attempts to allow some of these illegal immigrants to live and work openly in the United States, and the President has attempted to use his power unilaterally to do so. The intended targets of these initial efforts was to allow persons who were brought here as children and raised in the United States, so that they are American in all but strict legal sense. All of that exposition to get to this point.
        Perhaps the President issued an Executive Order pushing enforcement actions against Asgardians to the lowest priority. Thus they ARE subject to removal, but no action will occur until all of the human illegal immigrants are dealt with. This is presumably within the President’s discretion. It does, however, leave wide open the question of whether or not S.H.I.E.L.D. may employ him without sanction. I’ll leave that one to the experts.

    • “…and all of the Avengers popped into Germany without stopping for paperwork.”

      To be fair, at that point in THE AVENGERS, you’re dealing with initially just Black Widow and Captain America acting as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (the S.H.I.E.L.D. World Security Council and such suggests a global apparatus that allows for a streamlined ability for their agents to cross borders in pursuit of threats like Loki, who had at this point taken Selvig, Hawkeye, and the others). When Iron Man joins them in German airspace, remember that it was established in IRON MAN 2 that Stark is considered a consultant (a fact corroborated in the short film of the same name and in THE INCREDIBLE HULK) to The Avengers Initiative and thus someone who has a level of S.H.I.E.L.D. clearance that could be called into a circumstance like this – particularly when Thor, the only real wildcard in terms of permissions, introduces himself to the situation.

  3. Though I agree H-1B is dismissed too quickly (though non-diploma certification is difficult), an O-1 “Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities” seems an indisputably perfect fit. ( Checking the INS website, it looks like a form I-129 would need to be submitted; considering how to fill in the blanks makes for an amusing exercise.

    However, (and maybe an immigration lawyer might clarify), it looks like the application doesn’t have to be completed and signed by Thor himself, but might instead be completed by (say) Maria Hill, chief HR Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, at the direction of Colonel Fury.

  4. Complicating matters is a question of sovereignty. As crown prince of Asgard, Thor can travel anywhere withing the Nine Realms, including Midgard. He no more requires a visa to do so than Queen Elizabeth does when she visits her other domains such as Scotland or Canada. Asgard has held Earth as a protectorate for thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years – indeed, Thor himself is older than any modern nation-state – although they have allowed de facto control over law devolve to the local level, including issues of migration between Earth’s regions. We do know that Asgardian agents are dispatched to deal with criminals and other unwanted aliens arriving from off-world, such as Lorelei and at least one Kree, even inside the US and Spain. The US may need to specifically declare independence from Asgard before complaining about Thor’s visit, which could be difficult in practice for variety of reasons.

    • Does Earth (or a subdivision thereof) actually need to formally declare independence? Or is the nation-state version of adverse possession sufficient?

  5. What if we consider the original origin story of Thor rather than the modern retcon?

    Originally, Thor was the alter ego of Doctor Blake, who rapped a stick on the ground to change to Thor. Donald Blake had papers establishing himself as an American that were good enough to allow him to travel outside the country.

  6. As a member of the U.S. Military when I traveled abroad under orders I was not required to have a paasport, only a U.S. Military ID. This was, I believe, due to the fact that the U.S. government have status of forces agreements with the countries through which I passed. If S.H.I.E.L.D. has similar agreements with the U.S. government (at elast prior to being declared a terrorist group after Captain America:Winter Soldier) wouldn’t all of the Averngers, as part of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Avernger Initiative have that same implied permission? How are foriegn government agents, specifically law enforcement and intelligence agents (legal ones, not spies) handled? When the detail protecting the UK Queen’s advance detail vists the U.S. what kind of entry visa do they get?

    • When the U.S. forces entered Iraq, they certainly did not have the permission of the then-Iraqi government.
      The claim was made that entry was pursuant to U.N. authority (though most people assumed that in reality, it was a might-makes-right matter.) This means that there would need to be an inquiry into the rightfulness of Odin’s claim of dominion over the Earth. If Odin’s claim is rightful, then he does, in fact, have legal authority to send Thor to New Mexico, New York, or London, regardless of what the local authorities may want.

  7. Terry Washington

    Technically I suppose Thor IS an illegal immigrant( as are other pagan deities based on Earth and residing in the US such as Hercules and the Valkyrie), but hey, YOU go ahead and try to serve him with deportation papers!

  8. I agree with TerryC. Countries around the world (with some exceptions) had (according to the TV series) signed a treaty with SHIELD authorizing their agents to operate within their borders. SHIELD was considered a terrorist organisation after Captain America: Winter Soldier. However, it appears as though the countries who signed the treaty are still considered fair game for the Avengers. I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron yesterday: the Avengers went to Eastern Europe, Wakanda and South Korea and they never stopped to get their passports stamped.

    • Correction: not Wakanda. An unidentified nation hosting a shipbreaking yard somewhere along the African coast, as well as the city of Johannesburg in South Africa.

      My guess as to the host country of that shipbreaking yard where Klaue was hiding out would currently be Mauritania, but the finished film was not explicit enough in its details on that matter.

  9. I don’t understand why Rick thinks that Asgard doesn’t ‘officially’ exist, and thus the paperwork is complicated.

    I’m not entirely certain ‘The country you are from does not physically exist’ is even slightly a *reasonable* objection to visa status. That’s just a really weird concept by the court. People from places that don’t exist…don’t exist either, and hence can hardly be in court. There’s a difference between ‘diplomatically recognized Asgard’ and Asgard *exists*.(1)

    And who exactly would be disputing Asgard existing anyway? And if someone did, where do they think Thor is actually from?

    Even if it was in dispute, that takes like an hour to prove it exists to the satisfaction of the courts. Just send them up the bifrost and back down.

    Asgard ‘officially’ exists as soon as the US government says it exists, and the US government in the MCU will say it exists because *it clearly does exist*.

    1) Although there’s no reason the US shouldn’t recognize Asgard diplomatically. There, obviously, are difficulties in setting up embassies and communications when the only method of those are controlled by the Asgardians, but that just means our relations will be odd (Perhaps on some sort of schedule, if we need to communicate at all), not that we shouldn’t have them.

    • James Pollock

      “I don’t understand why Rick thinks that Asgard doesn’t ‘officially’ exist, and thus the paperwork is complicated.”

      If I wanted to enter the United States, and I listed my home country as “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” on the paperwork, would it breeze through? How about if I listed East Germany or the U.S.S.R.?

      There are “places that don’t exist” and there are people who are not recognized as citizens of any recognized state, and immigration lawyers occasionally have to deal with them, although that’s not the typical case, obviously.

    • James Pollock

      “And who exactly would be disputing Asgard existing anyway?”
      The sort of people who dispute that evolution exists, or that climate change exists.

      If you can believe that the moon landings were faked on a soundstage, you can believe that Chitauri can be faked on a soundstage (actually, this is easy to believe…) If you believe that climate change is a giant hoax scientists cooked up to get money so they could study it, then a government conspiracy to make people believe that aliens exist and occasionally fight other aliens here on Earth isn’t that far-fetched.

  10. Do you really want to open the can of worms formerly labeled “Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming” (and re-branded as “Climate Change” once it became apparent the market wasn’t buying much) on a super-hero legal blog?

    If so, why not ask if the EPA has jurisdiction over use or mis-use of the “Thunder God’s” various climate-defying abilities? Making a rainstorm appear (and therefore, upsetting the flood-control and storm-water runoff management plans) in locations and seasons where such storms are otherwise unexpected is surely expensive to the authorities of the jurisdiction. Wind storms sufficient to hurl vehicles into or out of the sky would seem more likely than the proverbial “butterfly wings” to disrupt climate patterns worldwide. Summoning the lightnings from their natural accumulations and distributions among scattered clouds to strike at localized targets can’t help but interfere with the ionosphere’s ability to reflect and conduct radio signals — maybe the FCC as well as the EPA has an interest, eh?

    Aside from Thor, the Marvel Universe has Ororo/Storm, Shaman of Alpha Flight, Crystal of the Inhumans, ManThing, and to some extent Doctor Stephen Strange all as known practicioners of deliberate “climate change” in their own specific localities. These individuals, mostly non-citizens of the United States, are recklessly bending the natural order, long standing precedent, and long-term expectations of natural seasonal progression in our homeland, merely to suit their whims and address their personal, immediate, short term, needs.

  11. James Pollock

    “If so, why not ask if the EPA has jurisdiction over use or mis-use of the “Thunder God’s” various climate-defying abilities?”

    Things which are not made illegal are legal. I don’t think the Code forbids use of Norse thunder mythology, mutant abilities, or magical power.

    Besides, Shaman is an agent of the Canadian government, and Storm of the Wakandan. Man-Thing has other things to worry about… does the refusal of the courts to grant standing to the cetaceans mean that he is ALSO not entitled to a day in court?… and Dr. Strange tends to not dwell much on Earthly legal matters.

    • James Pollock

      Also, the changes in the Antarctic ice accumulation could be caused by Ka-Zar, Sauron, or any other resident of the Savage Land.

  12. Ok, long dead thread but here we are anyway.
    One thing that has not been addressed is the end of the Avengers 1 where Thor claims Loki as a war criminal and the Tesseract as stolen property and returns the three of them to Asgard, with Nick Fury’s permission.

    This implies some legal or at least diplomatic recognition of Asgard as a nation stat with laws that SHIELD respects. Doesn’t this imply some sort of diplomatic visa might be applicable?

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