Superman verbally renounces his US citizenship in Action #900 (The
Incident, pgs 70-78). Superman decides to show up at Azadi square in Tehran. Iranian pro-democracy protestors are in a face-off with Iranian security and Superman flies down and plants himself between the protestors and Iranian security. Iranian security does not fire on the protestors probably because of Superman’s presence. When Superman flies away after 24 hours, one of the protestors offers a rose to an Iranian policeman who has a rifle aimed at the protestor and the Iranian policeman lowers his weapon and accepts the flower.
This upsets the US government so much that a meeting with Superman is demanded Superman meets with a National Security advisor in a park. Superman spots a couple of US government snipers with rifles aimed at him and loaded with kryptonite bullets in winter cameo that he can spot anyway with his infrared vision. The National Security advisor tells Superman the snipers are there just in case because his actions have alarmed the US government. The story is interesting on several levels. Action #900 is acknowledging the current Arab Spring, Superman is engaging in international political activism but most of all renounces his US citizenship because in his words, “truth, justice and the American way. It’s not enough anymore”.
In my post The Myth of Superman Revisited, I comment on Umberto Eco’s critique of Superman. Eco points out that Superman engages in tasks such as catching bank robbers that are a waste of time relative to his potential. Superman could deal with root causes of the human malaise and change fundamental economic and political conditions. In this post I point out that while Superman has kept his boy scout persona, the issue of superheroes taking extreme political action has been explored a great deal since Eco wrote his article. Superman political activism or lack of it is an interesting issue but in this post I want to focus on a legalistic issue about Superman’s renunciation of his US citizenship.
Perhaps Superman cannot renounce his US citizenship since he may be an illegal alien! Superman landed in a cornfield in Kansas and was adopted by the Kent’s but never applied for citizenship and therefore is in the US fraudulently. In the Silver Age, Superman was given UN citizenship and so this would make Superman citizen of the US since the US is part of UN. The problem with UN citizenship is that it would be an extension of the dual citizenship concept and would mean that Superman would have both the rights and responsibilities of all the countries he is a citizen of. That’s an awful lot of taxes and an awful lot of laws to memorize and follow. Like many Silver Age constructions, the UN citizenship idea can be dismissed as fanciful and irrelevant.
In the Death of Superman story arc, Superman was given honorary US citizenship. The problem is that Superman is an alias not a legal identity. Can you give citizenship to what is essentially a non-person legally? You might even have the very confusing situation whereby Superman is a citizen and not Clark Kent. This seems like legal contradiction that cannot be accepted. So does this mean Superman cannot renounce his US citizenship because he is not a citizen legally in the first place?
Maybe not, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows certain foreign-born,
biological and adopted children of United States citizens to acquire United
States citizenship automatically. The child must have at least one U.S. citizen parent by birth or naturalization, be under 18 years of age (have been born on or after February 27, 1983) live in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent, and be admitted as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence. In addition, if the child is adopted, the adoption must be full and final.
Superman appears to meet all this criteria except for being born on or
before February 27, 1983. So whether or not Superman is a US citizen in the first place is dependent on the date of his birth. Superman is perennially middle
aged, thirty-something. If Superman was born in 1983 then he would be 28 in 2011 and this is unlikely. Therefore Superman is not a US citizen in the first place so his renunciation is invalid!
Even if Superman is a US citizen then renouncing citizenship is a really bad idea. Renunciation of citizenship includes renunciation of all rights and privileges of citizenship. A person who wants to renounce U.S. citizenship cannot decide to retain some of the privileges of citizenship, as this would be logically inconsistent with the concept of renunciation. Only citizens can enter
and leave the US without a visa. Superman would have to apply for a visa every time he landed on US soil! All this time getting a visa will seriously hamper his crime fighting career.
Superman could fly over the US but even that would be problematic. There
is no international agreement on the vertical extent of sovereign airspace (the
boundary between outer space— which is not subject to national jurisdiction—and national airspace), with suggestions ranging from about 30 km
(19 miles) (the extent of the highest aircraft and balloons) to about
160 km (99 miles) (the lowest extent of short-term stable orbits). Superman could apply for a multiple re-entry visa but such a visa probably would not be given to a person who has renounced US citizenship in the first place.