Deporting Ottoman Americans

Episode 370

with additional contributions by Torrie Hester and Devin Naar

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | GooglePlay | SoundCloud

Most Americans descend from people born elsewhere. But what if instead of simply a nation of immigrants, we see our society as a eugenicist project forged by immigration quotas and selective deportation policies? This proposal may fly in the face of the civic nationalism many hold dear. Generations of politicians have repeated the mantra that anyone can be an American and that our identity is defined not by race or blood but by the embrace of laws and ideals. Yet many historians have dedicated their lives to studying the pivotal role of exclusion in making American identity through the histories of those who were deprived of the American dream because of race, color, and creed. In this introductory episode, we talk to scholars who have written about the emergence of deportation as a method of population control and punishment wielded by the US government on a mass scale since the 1920s. Then, we set the stage for the rest of our series by considering how people from the former Ottoman Empire were part of both the making and unmaking of America as a nation of immigrants.

Stream via SoundCloud 

Section 1 - 1936 
FDR at the Statue of Liberty (0:00)
Ottomans at Ellis Island (1:45)
Intro Montage (6:16)
Section 2 - Introduction (7:36)
Section 3 - Ottoman Immigration
The Late Ottoman Empire (9:32)
Ottoman Immigrants (12:27)
Section 4 - US Immigration Policy
The Anti-Immigrant Turn (18:32)
The Birth of Immigration Quotas (22:23)
Section 5 - The Modern State 
America's Town Meeting of the Air (26:12)
The Anti-Immigration Consensus (30:48)
Section 6 - The Deportation State
Immigration Policy During Great Depression (32:30)
Pope-Obeda on Deportation History (38:13)
Hester on Deportation and Diplomacy (44:41)
Section 7 - Race and Immigration 
Racial Bias in the 1924 Quotas (51:10)
Interwar Racism (56:14)
Section 8 - Excluding Ottoman Americans
Ottomans Caught in Between (58:27)
WWI in Ottoman Empire (1:00:26)
Impact of Quotas on Ottoman Migrants (1:02:16)
Naar on Ottoman Americans (1:03:56)
Deportation and Nationality (1:06:27)
Section 9 - Series Preview (1:08:40)
Section 10 - Credits (1:13:07)

Click for a transcript of the episode

Additional Listening

Emily Pope-Obeda has studied the growth of the American deportation state during the 1920s. Listen to this interview to learn more about why and how the US came to deport tens of thousands of people per year by the time of the Great Depression

Torrie Hester is the author of a new book entitled Deportation: the origins of U.S. Policy. Listen to our conversation about this work and the ways in which the international context and diplomacy have influenced the emergence of deportation policy in the United States.



Explore the Sources

"40,000 Ku Klux." British Pathé. 1925.

"Act of May 26, 1924: The Immigration Act of 1924."

America's Town Meeting of the Air (select episodes).

Cooke, Charles., R. Reimer, and Russell Maloney. "Ellis Island on Starchey." The New Yorker. 3 December 1938.

Coolidge, Calvin. "Inaugural Address." The American Presidency Project. 4 March 1925. (partial audio)

Fairchild, Henry Pratt. 1921. "The Ultimate Basis of Immigration". The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 93, no. 1: 198-201.

Hitti, Philip Khuri, 1886-. The Syrians in America, by Philip K. Hitti, with an Introduction by Talcott Williams. New York,: George H. Doran company, n.d. 

Hoover, Herbert. "Address Accepting the Republican Presidential Nomination." The American Presidency Project. 11 August 1932. (audio)

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano. "Address on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Statue of Liberty." The American Presidency Project. 28 October 1936. (audio)

"Who Was Shut Out?: Immigration Quotas, 1925–1927." History Matters.

Reading List

Akın, Yiğit. When the War Came Home: The Ottomans' Great War and the Devastation of an Empire. Stanford University Press, 2018.

Balderrama, Francisco E., and Raymond Rodriguez. Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006.

Carbado, Devon W., and Mitu Gulati. Acting White?: Rethinking Race in "Post-Racial" America. 2015.

De Genova, Nicholas, and Nathalie Mae Peutz. The Deportation Regime: Sovereignty, Space, and the Freedom of Movement. 2018.

Fahrenthold, Stacy D. 2016. "Former Ottomans in the Ranks: Pro-Entente Military Recruitment Among Syrians in the Americas, 1916–18". Journal of Global History. 11, no. 01: 88-112.

Gordon, Linda. Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition. Liveright Publishing, 2018.

Gualtieri, Sarah M. A. Between Arab and White Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

Gutman, David E. Sojourners, Smugglers, and the State: Transhemispheric Migration Flows and the Politics of Mobility in Eastern Anatolia, 1888-1908 (Ph.D. Thesis). Binghamton University, 2012.

Haney-López, Ian. White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race. New York: New York University Press, 2006.

Harold, Claudrena. New Negro Politics in the Jim Crow South. University of Georgia Press, 2018.

Hester, Torrie. Deportation: The Origins of U.S. Policy. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017.

Hirota, Hidetaka. Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy. New York: NY, 2017.

Horne, Gerald. The Color of Fascism: Lawrence Dennis, Racial Passing, and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in the United States. New York: New York University Press, 2009.

Kanstroom, Dan. Deportation Nation: Outsiders in American History. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2010.

Khater, Akram Fouad. Inventing Home: Emigration, Gender, and the Middle Class in Lebanon, 1870-1920. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Laliotou, Ioanna. Transatlantic Subjects: Acts of Migration and Cultures of Transnationalism between Greece and America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Luibhéid, Eithne. Entry Denied: Controlling Sexuality at the Border. Minneapolis, Minn: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2010.

Moloney, Deirdre M. National Insecurities: Immigrants and U.S. Deportation Policy Since 1882. Univ Of North Carolina Pr, 2016.

Naar, Devin E. "Turkinos Beyond the Empire: Ottoman Jews in America, 1893 to 1924," Jewish Quarterly Review Jewish Quarterly Review 105, no. 2 (2015).

Nail, Thomas. The Figure of the Migrant. Stanford University Press, 2015.

Ngai, Mae M. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2014.

Pope-Obeda, Emily. "When in Doubt, Deport!": U.S. Deportation and the Local Policing of Global Migration During the 1920s (Ph.D. Thesis). University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2016.

Scott, James C. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, Conn: Yale Univ. Press, 2008.

Torpey, John. The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship and the State. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Zolberg, Aristide R. A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America. 2008.


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.