Uncanny Immigrants

Uncanny Immigrants

Although comics are mostly thought of as fantasy tales, sometimes they are closer to reality than we would think.

Although comics and cartoons are commonly seen as children’s entertainment, they do offer food for thought for adults as well. Often an underlying, more subtle theme is present in these tales of fantasy. Batman shows the fine line between hero and villain and Watchmen addresses the issue of morale in crime fighting. Although these themes are of a more philosophical nature, other themes are more tangible in day-to-day life. The X-men comics, for example, address the issue of discrimination. This is illustrated by the conflict between humans and mutants. Humans perceive mutants as dangerous, as their superpowers may pose a threat to society. Mutants are therefore feared and openly discriminated against. In the storyline of the Uncanny X-men, the Mutant Registration Act is proposed to register all mutants and the powers they possess. This way the government will know who is dangerous and who is not. Of course the proposed bill is seen as a threat by mutants, as it can be a step towards the persecution of all mutants.

Not a Mere Fantasy

All this talk of mutants and superpowers can make it look like a fantasy scenario that will never actually happen. However, these scenarios may be more real than one might expect. Although they do not have superpowers (as far as we know), immigrants face a similar situation. All over the world databases are filled with information on immigrants. In the EU, for example, there is the Schengen Information System, the Visa Information System and EURODAC and the USA has the US-VISIT program. Systems like these are not only constructed to see who is entering the territory, but are also increasingly used for risk assessments and coupled with criminal databases. A proposal to link EURODAC, which stores the fingerprints of immigrants, to criminal databases is an example of this.

The reason for this development can possibly be found in the concept of crimmigration. This portmanteau of crime and immigration refers to the idea of overlapping crime control and immigration control. A possible driving factor is the increasing association between crime and immigrants. Cross-border crime and especially terrorism add to the idea that people from the outside can be dangerous. To know who they are and how much of a threat they pose, information is needed. By registering immigrants and gathering information, harm to society can be prevented.


From a reader’s point of view, the Mutant Registration Act is an obviously questionable measure. Individuals are labelled as a possible danger without proof. Yet, when a similar measure is proposed in real life, it does not seem to create the same response. Not much attention is paid to immigration databases and possible downsides in the public discourse. Maybe this can be explained by perspective. In comics, the reader views the world through the eyes of those affected by the measure: the mutants. In real life, we are the ones being “protected” from the “dangerous others”. This leaves the question if we should not take a look at the situation from the other side and then decide if these databases are such a good idea


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