Jimmy Carter Banned Iranians from Entering the U.S.-Mostly Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
President Jimmy Carter banned Iranians from entering the U.S. during the hostage crisis that played out at a U.S. embassy in Iran in the early ‘80s, according to reports.
Jimmy Carter didn’t ban Iranians from entering the U.S. — but he did strip non-immigrant Iranians of visas and temporarily suspended new visas to Iranians.
Jimmy Carter took those steps during the Iranian Hostage Crisis that spanned from 1979-81. However, immigration data shows that more Iranian immigrants were actually allowed into the country during those years due to political asylum laws — so the claim that Jimmy Carter banned Iranians from entering the U.S. is mostly false.
Jimmy Carter’s action on Iranian immigration during the early 80s was drudged up after Donald Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. during the 2016 presidential campaign. Critics compared Carter’s action to Trump’s proposals and argued that the media and liberals had treated Trump unfairly.
Aside from the fact that Jimmy Carter didn’t actually “ban” Iranians from entering the country (more on that below), there’s one more big difference: Jimmy Carter’s action on Iranian immigrants was based on nationality, not religious beliefs. Trump’s proposal, on the other hand, targets those who practice a specific religion.
Jimmy Carter declared a state of emergency after a mob of Islamic revolutionaries overtook a U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979. Sixty Americans were held hostage there for 444 days in what would become known as the “Iranian Hostage Crisis.” During that time, Carter declared a state of emergency, advanced economic sanctions against Iran and issued the executive order in question on November 27, 1979. The official text of Executive Order 12172 reads:
DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY WITH RESPECT TO ENTRY OF CERTAIN ALIENS INTO THE UNITED STATES
By virtue of the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States, including the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, 8 USC 1185 and 3 USC 301, it is hereby ordered as follows:
SECTION 1-101. Delegation of Authority. The Secretary of State and the Attorney General are hereby designated and empowered to exercise in respect of Iranians holding nonimmigrant visas, the authority conferred upon the President by section 215(a) (1) of the Act of June 27, 1952 (8 USC 1185), to prescribe limitations and exceptions on the rules and regulations governing the entry of aliens into the United States.
SEC. 1—102. Effective Date. This order is effective immediately.
The White House,
November 26, 1979.
The executive order effectively revoked the visas of non-immigrant Iranian visitors and suspended new visas to Iranian citizens. The measure, according to a Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans report, mostly impacted Iranian students studying in the U.S.:
A number of Iranians were deported from the United States and those who were immigrants were required to report to their local Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) office for extensive interviews. During this period, 56,700 Iranian students reported to the INS and almost 7,000 were found to be in violation of their visas, of whom a number were deported, while most applied for political asylum, fearing that return to Iran would result in their persecution. The discrimination and difficulties that Iranians experienced throughout this time increased their motivation to blend into and comport themselves as productive members of United States.
Immigration data does not support the claim that Jimmy Carter “banned” Iranians from coming to the U.S. in those years, however. Thanks to U.S. political asylum laws, there was actually an uptick in the number of Iranians admitted in to the U.S. in 1979 and 1980, according to State Department data:
After the Iranian Hostage Crisis was resolved, the number of Iranians immigrating to the U.S. continued to rise. When the Iran-Iraq war broke out, many young men fled the country to avoid fighting in the conflict, according to the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans:
Following the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in September 1980, an exodus of young men eligible for military service and middle class professionals ensued in Iran, and is reflected in the INS records depicting the relatively high number of men entering the United States. 22 Between 1981 and 1990, 116,172 Iranians immigrated to the United States. 23 Young men who were at risk of being drafted to fight in the Iran-Iraq War (1980 – 1988) became the beneficiaries of United States political asylum laws. 24 Between October 1981 and February 1985, more Iranians were granted asylum — 11,055 in total — than any other nationality. Thousands of other Iranians, however, remained in the United States illegally, working odd jobs, living with relatives and family, and making every effort to pass detection by INS agents and deportation back to Iran.
So, Jimmy Carter revoked the visas of non-immigrant Iranians in the U.S. and temporarily suspended issuing new visas to Iranians. But immigration data shows that Carter didn’t “ban” Iranians from entering the country, as has been claimed.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, has proposed “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country.” That proposal targets individuals who practice a certain religion, not citizens of a government that the U.S. is in conflict with. Trump elaborated on his remarks in a written proposal:
“Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life. If I win the election for President, we are going to Make America Great Again.”
In conclusion, we have classified this rumor as “mostly false” for two main reasons. First, Jimmy Carter didn’t actually ban Iranians from entering the U.S. Second, Jimmy Carter’s action targeted people based on nationality, and Trump’s targeted people based on religion, which makes the proposals very different.