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The Second Exchange: Ottoman Greeks and the American Deportation State during the 1930s

In: Journal of Migration History
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After multiple wars, Greece and the newly-founded Republic of Turkey made peace through the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1930 Treaty of Ankara. A critical component of this rapprochement was the mutual exchange of population and property involving the transfer of some two million people. As part of the exchange, Greek Orthodox inhabitants of the Republic of Turkey – with the exception of those who remained in Istanbul as of the Treaty of Ankara – became Greek nationals. This article explores how the agreements between Turkey and Greece indirectly facilitated a ‘second exchange’ involving the deportation of Ottoman-born Greeks from the United States during the 1930s. As the American deportation state grew to deport upwards of 20,000 people at the outset of the Great Depression, groups targeted by stringent immigration quotas such as communities of the former Ottoman Empire were deported in large numbers. The exchange of populations provided a framework for resolving the ambiguous nationalities of Greeks in the US, allowing American diplomats to secure Greek passports for prospective deportees. As we further demonstrate, only the terms of this agreement – not national affinity nor diplomatic relations with the US – could be invoked to secure these passports in a number of cases. When it came to immigration enforcement, how people self-identified in racial, ethnic, religious, or national terms was virtually irrelevant. What mattered was how states identified them.

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