Curious George, Christopher Columbus, Superman, the Black Panther: A Short List of Famous Immigrants
By: Harlan York
February 2, 2018

We spend a lot of time making assumptions about who is an immigrant, and what that means. The word ‘immigrant’ itself can have a negative connotation in certain circles. But why is that? Our country is made up of immigrants, even indigenous populations moved around the world before settling in one spot. We all share a varied and diverse gene pool that is a roadmap to the globe, and highlights a basic ‘uprooting’ that seems inherently human.  More than that, some of our greatest citizens were or are immigrants. Here is a short list of my favorite famous immigrants.


Before his pedal into mischief in “Curious George Rides a Bike,” the monkey took a much more harrowing ride when his creators escaped the Nazi invasion of France. The first manuscript was among the few belongings that Margret and H.A. Rey took with them when they fled Paris in June 1940. Both German Jews, the Reys cobbled together 2 bikes out of spare parts and pedaled to Orleans. Trains carried them through Spain and Portugal, where they boarded a ship to the US.The Reys became U.S. citizens and settled in New York and later Cambridge, Mass. The book was ultimately published in the United States, and is one of our most dear children’s stories.

“Kids are drawn in because of George, but they’re also inspired by the story because these people were ordinary citizens in a wartime situation,” said Louise Borden, author of “The Journey That Saved Curious George.


He is celebrated as the humble Italian weaver who ended up discovering the Americas. But the conventional wisdom relating to Christopher Columbus is under threat after academics concluded the explorer was actually a Polish immigrant. An international team of distinguished professors have completed 20 years of painstaking research into his beginnings. The fresh evidence about Columbus’ background is revealed in a new book by Manuel Rosa, an academic at Duke University in the United States. He says the voyager was not from a family of humble Italian craftsmen as previously thought – but the son of Vladislav III, an exiled King of Poland.


Wonder Woman, Superman and Aquaman are all immigrants, as is the Black Panther. In fact many of the superheroes come from other planets, dimensions, alternate time lines ( we don’t have a visa for that…yet).

  • Wonder Woman is mixed race Greek, and “from the gods” from the island Themyscira (off the coast of Greece in another dimension). She’s likely in the US on a work visa or perhaps gained Green Card as Alien of Extraordinary Ability
  • Superman is from Krypton. He was adopted through family immigration by his parents in Kansas. He is a citizen of the United States.
  • Aquaman is from Atlantis off the coast of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco. He is likely in the US with a work visa.


Finally – in one of my favorite immigration stories of the year – we combine fantasy with reality in the Black Panther. The Black Panther himself is an undocumented immigrant, and it’s not just a back story. In the seminal 2011 comic series “Black Panther: The Man Without Fear,” the main character, T’Challa — the ruler of the fictional country of Wakanda — deals with the challenges of being an African immigrant without papers.

Then Black Panther actor Bambadjan Bamba came out in February as a Dreamer, saying he has been able to work in Hollywood under the DACA program. Now he’s living the dream, and sharing it with millions of new young (and old) fans.

About Harlan York

The first-ever attorney in New Jersey to win “Immigration Lawyer of the Year” from Best Lawyers, Harlan York is former immigration chair of the NJ State Bar Association and former co-chair for the NY State Bar Association CFLS Committee on Immigration. He currently serves on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) National Practice Management Committee.

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Harlan York & Associates practices law in the areas of Immigration, Deportation Defense, Family Immigration, Corporate Immigration, Naturalization throughout Essex County – Hudson County – Morris County – Passaic County – Somerset County – Middlesex County – Bergen County – New Jersey -Immigration Lawyer – NJ Immigration Lawyer – Jersey City-Newark-Paterson Passaic Elizabeth Edison Woodbridge Toms River Hamilton Trenton Camden Clifton Passaic Garfield Wallington Cherry Hill East Orange Passaic Union City Bayonne Irvington Old Bridge Lakewood North Bergen Vineland Union Wayne Parsippany-Troy Hills New Brunswick Plainfield Bloomfield Perth Amboy East Brunswick West New York West Orange Hackensack Atlantic City Kearny Mount Laurel Montclair Essex Hoboken North Brunswick Belleville. In addition to serving clients in New York, Pennsylvania, the greater United States, and Internationally.

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