Given the current political focus on immigration enforcement, it’s not hard to forget that deportations are not a recent phenomenon. The first deportation law in the United States was the Alien Act of 1798. Since then, many persons have been removed from the United States. This month, we present ten famous people who fought their own personal battles against immigration authorities. You would be surprised to learn the list includes Charlize Theron, John Lennon, Melania Trump, Michael J. Fox, and many more. So, here they are:
1) Charlize Theron: Theron was born in South Africa and became an actress only after knee injuries derailed her ballet dancer dreams. Initially, she struggled to win roles due to her accent. Just when her acting career started gaining traction, Theron was deported from the U.S. at age 19. It was in 1994, when she had just landed a role in “The Devil’s Advocate” with Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves, when she was found and removed by U.S. immigration authorities because her work visa had expired. According to Theron, she was deported after she produced and financed an unpatriotic film about Cuba that appeared damaging to America. Not much has been revealed about how she managed to legally return, but it’s apparent she did, and she became a U.S. citizen in 2007.
2) Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Austrian-born future-Terminator violated the terms of his athletics visa in the 1970s when he did sidework as a bricklayer after entering the U.S. for a bodybuilding competition.
3) Michael J. Fox: Canadian-born actor Michael J. Fox entered the U.S. without a work visa. He wrote in his autobiography that he “suffered some nervousness at the border” early in his career because “the actual visa had not yet come through.” It later did.
4) Selma Hayek: Hayek, one of the most influential Latino stars in Hollywood, was born in Mexico. She moved to Los Angeles in 1991, and her visa expired shortly thereafter. In 2010, she admitted to E! Online, “I was an illegal immigrant in the United States. It was for a small period of time, but I still did it.” Her publicist later clarified that her status “was cleaned up immediately as Salma went to Mexico and renewed” her visa. No further comment has been provided as to what type of visa she got and how she “cleaned up” her situation with immigration. Nevertheless, she remains one of the most outspoken Latina stars in the immigration debate, as she is an activist for women’s rights and undocumented workers.
5) Cesar Millian: The Mexican-born “Dog Whisperer” entered the U.S. illegally at age 21. He became a U.S. citizen in 2009.
6) Charlie Chaplin: Born in Britain in 1889, Chaplin was one of the motion-picture industry’s most accomplished figures. He wrote, produced, directed, and acted in some of the most famous movies of the 1920s-1940s. But back in 1952, he was denied a re-entry visa to the U.S due to questions about his leftist politics. He was angry about the anti-Communist fervor in the U.S. and vowed never to return. In fact, Chaplin never made another American film. He did, however, break his vow when he returned for a brief four-day trip in 1972 to accept an honorary Academy Award.
7) Demian Bichir Najera: Mexican-born Bichir was saved by President Reagan’s 1986 amnesty after overstaying his visa.
8) John Lennon & Yoko Ono: Ono and Lennon had been an outspoken anti-war couple and had campaigned against Nixon’s reelection. Ono once told a reporter how she and her husband, former Beatle Lennon, were served with deportation papers one morning in March of 1972. Immigration apparently argued that Lennon should not have been let into the country in the first place because he had been previously charged with possession of marijuana in London in 1968. Lennon was ultimately given 60 days to leave the U.S., but Yoko Ono was granted permanent residence. Watergate intervened, however, and Nixon’s successor—Gerald Ford—wasn’t as interested in continuing the public political battle with Lennon. Lennon was later awarded residency in 1976 after a three-judge panel ruled the possession charge was not sufficient to keep him out of the U.S.
9) Rodolfo Jimenez: The Mexican-born telenovela star and TV host reportedly first tried crossing the border at age 15.
10) Melania Trump: The First-Lady was allegedly paid for as many as 10 jobs as a model despite lacking the proper working credentials in the 1990s.