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"So don't tell anybody, what I'm gonna do

If they find out, you know that they'll never let me through..."
Genesis, "Illegal Alien"

A character who has entered the country illegally. They are usually female, speak with a Central or Eastern European accent (sometimes their home country won't be specified) and are being exploited by the evil people traffickers who brought them over. They will probably end up in a brothel or strip club.

Getting increasingly common in UK crime drama.

A common trope on U.S. police shows, as well. The nationality of the person being exploited varies. Exploited sweatshop workers are Latino, Asians, or occasionally Eastern Europeans. If it's people trafficking for purposes of prostitution, it's almost always Asian women, from China, Thailand, other semi-industrial countries. An appropriate mob organization (Russians, Tongs, Yakuza) will be the string-pullers.

In any case, the person in question, due to fear, language barriers, and poverty, will have little recourse. Cooperating with the cops can mean a death sentence.

A recent variation happens because illegal immigration is a political issue in the USA. Typically the illegal alien is Mexican, hardworking, speaks perfect English, can be of either sex, and is exploited only in minor ways which elicit sympathy for him without implying he'd have been better off staying home.

Examples of The Illegal include:

Anime and Manga

  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei has an unusual Japanese version: Maria, an illegal alien, probably from Brazil or the Middle East somewhere. Interestingly, she defies stereotypes by using the identity of a male student but does not crossdress.
    • She's also much younger than the person whose identity she bought, which along with the lack of education in her own country makes her attendance in high school pretty much an exercise in futility.
  • Ling Yao of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga is an illegal immigrant from a place called Xing. He's sent to jail, but breaks out later.

Comic Books

  • In the Uncanny X-Men, a group of (ex-mutant) women are imported from Russia as prostitutes.
  • The current S.W.O.R.D. series involves Henry Peter Gyrich (Marvel's go-to for "Jackass Bureaucrat") taking control of the eponymous organization, then promptly declaring that every alien on Earth, whether they previously had clearance or not, is now an illegal, and begins taking measures to have every last one deported. Even the ones who come from empires or planets that no longer exist.


  • The movie Men in Black starts with the The Men in Black intercepting a bunch of Mexicans trying to cross the border into the United States. Preventing aliens from entering the country illegally, however, turns out to be not their primary concern... unless the illegal aliens are from outer space.
  • The villain in The Coneheads is an INS agent determined to expose the Coneheads as not only space aliens, but illegal aliens, and have them deported.
    • Be fair. He only wants to deport them because they're illegals, which is his job. At the end of the movie, he's perfectly willing to help them emigrate legally.
  • In Bowfinger, when Bobby Bowfinger needs a film crew, he just goes to California's border with Mexico and offers shelter to a few fugitive immigrants.
  • Meta-example: When Janette Goldstein showed up to audition for Aliens, she had interpreted the title as meaning illegal aliens and showed up dressed as a migrant worker. Made it into the movie as a joke over breakfast.

Live Action TV

  • The Wire has dead eastern European woman found in a cargo container as the impetus for that season's investigation.
  • Angel has a bunch of women exported from another dimension.
  • I Married Dora was about a millionaire who married his illegal alien maid so she could get a green card.
  • Taxi: Latka turns out to be an illegal and marries a prostitute for a green card.
  • One of Dexter's victims was importing illegal immigrants, then holding them prisoner to extort money from family members already in the country.
  • Catalina from My Name Is Earl. She came to America in a box from a Banana Republic called "Guadelatucky" to escape from her mother, who was trying to kill her to get a kidney for her brother.

Web Comics

Second variation:

Comic Books

  • In the 2008 "American Dream" miniseries from Marvel Comics, American Dream meets an illegal alien of this type.

Live Action TV

  • Shown in Smallville where an illegal alien boy working in Kansas was one of the few people who found out Clark's secret. The episode also compared illegal aliens to Clark, even though Clark is basically a refugee.
    • ... I must have missed the part where Clark asked and received official Earth permission to remain. Plenty of people are both refugee and illegal...
    • By that logic, almost every incarnation of Superman is this.


  • Edilio from Gone is implied to be this.
    • Confirmed in "Plague"


  • The protagonist/narrator of the Genesis song "Illegal Alien", which provides the page quote. Notable for being banned from radio airplay in America due to Unfortunate Implications.
  • Calexico's song "Across the Wire" is rather vaguely-worded, but can be interpreted as a song about two Mexican brothers sneaking into the US.