Part two of a three-part series.
(CN) — Before 1954, the primary drivers of immigration to the United States were problems in other countries, as well as the lure of our own. But since 1954, the primary drivers have been U.S. policies, and their sorry aftermaths.
Here is a brief rundown of how our failed foreign and domestic policies have spurred immigration to the United States for more than two generations.
In August 1953, the CIA backed a military coup against Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who was contemplating nationalizing his nation’s oil reserves. We installed Shah Reza Palavi, who institutionalized torture chambers for his political opponents, after torturing and executing many of Mossadegh’s associates. Mossadegh was sentenced to 3 years solitary confinement by a five-man military tribunal, then held under house arrest for 14 years, until he died. He was buried in his living room, to forestall public protests at his funeral.
The United States then supported the Shah — in fact, kept him in power — until he was ousted by the Islamic Revolution of 1979, whose heirs rule Iran today.
From 1842 to 1903, only 130 Iranians/Persians emigrated to the United States, according to a 2014 report from the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americana (PAAIA). Not 130 a year; 130 in 61 years: about two a year.
For the next 20 years, Iranian emigration to the United States was so insignificant that Iranians/Persians were not even listed in U.S. immigration statistics. (Iran adopted its name in 1935; before then, most of what we know as Iran today was called Persia.)
From 1925 to 1950, “nearly 2,000 Iranians were admitted to the United States as immigrants,” according to the PAAIA report: about 80 a year — three every two weeks — for 25 years.
On Page 4 of its report, the PAAIA related the economic progress Iran made from 1954 to 1960 — without, however, mentioning the military coup, the Shah, the oil, the CIA, or the torture chambers. It does mention, however, that the number of Iranian students in the United States increased from 7,795 in 1975 to 13,928 in in 1976 and 25,086 in 1977.
Then came the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which we Yankees recall, if at all, as “the hostage crisis,” and which, more than any other event, drove Jimmy Carter from office and elected Ronald Reagan.
Iranian immigration to the United States rose from 40,716 in 1978 to 49,192 in 1979 and 59,602 in 1980. Iranian emigration to the United States has risen every year since 1978 — 45 years in a row — to more than 400,000 a year every year since 2007 (more than 6 million in the past 5 years alone).
Much, perhaps most, of this Iranian emigration is due to the sexist policies of the Iranian government. But the United States kicked off this mass migration: because Mossadegh sought to recover for Iran its own oilfields.
So: Ten million Iranian immigrants to the United States since the CIA coup, more than 1 million a year under the Trump administration. I don’t blame them. I’d have done the same thing. But is that a crisis? And if not, why is it a crisis when Latin Americans come here?
Well, a lot of the Iranians are educated, and a lot of the Mexicans are not.
Why would that be?
Guatemala – 1954
No, the crisis is that the CIA, flushed with its “victory” in Iran, proceeded to back another military coup in 1954, against Guatemala’s elected President Jacobo Árbenz. Then we installed a military regime that has killed more than 1 million Guatemalans, most of them Mayas, and continues to terrorize Guatemala today.
Mossadegh’s “error” was to try to reclaim profits from his country’s oilfields. Árbenz “erred” when he tried to nationalize fallow land owned by the United Fruit Company and other U.S. companies in Guatemala: a country rich in natural resources, whose people were, and are, dying of starvation.