The white nationalist immigration policy established by Donald Trump’s policy adviser, Stephen Miller, and his former U.S. Senate boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is putting in jeopardy a number of governments-in-exile and political leaders receiving asylum in the United States. Since World War II, the United States has been one of the few countries in the world that extended a welcome to governments overthrown in coups and military invasions. However, under the Trump administration’s policy of reviewing the status of permanent resident immigrants in the United States, the welcome mat may soon be pulled out from under a number of exiled governments and their leaders.
At the top of the list for possible expulsion are two Iranian “monarchies-in-exile.” These are the National Council of Iran, a royalist umbrella group consisting of some 40 organizations loyal to the exiled heir to the Pahlavi throne in Iran, Reza Pahlavi.
Reza Pahlavi is the son of the late Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. He lives in Potomac, Maryland, where he leads the National Council of Iran, which favors a constitutional monarchy for Iran, with himself as Shah, sitting on the Peacock Throne of the Imperial State of Iran.
But, there is a rival claimant for the Iranian throne. He is Prince Mohammad Hasan Mirza II, the grandson of Mohammad Hassan Mirza, the last crown prince of Iran’s Qajar dynasty. The Qajars were exiled after the Pahlavis seized their Sun Throne in 1923. Prince Mohammad Hasan Mirza, who also uses the name Mickey Kadjar, was born in Paris and currently lives in Dallas, where he presides over the Sublime State of Persia.
The Pahlavis and Qajars are permanent residents of the United States due to a clause in the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States, which states, “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.” When the green card holder is the very “foreign prince” or “potentate” referenced in the oath, U.S. citizenship is problematic. Until the Trump administration took office, the Pahlavis and Qajars could rest assured that the government was not going to deport them, especially since it is well known that the Pahlavis have lived in the United States since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 under the patronage of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Now that the Trump administration includes such supporters of the exiled Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) as National Security Adviser John Bolton, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and Trump’s personal attorney, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the continued permanent residency status of the Pahlavis and Qajars are in doubt. Reza Pahlavi has made no secret of his disdain for the MEK, which he has described as a “cult.” Due to the influence of people like Bolton and Chao—the latter having received $50,000 in 2015 for a five-minute speech to the MEK—in the Trump administration, Reza Pahlavi has not received an answer to repeated letters he has sent to the White House. Pahlavi’s father treated the MEK as a terrorist organization during his reign and Reza Pahlavi sees no role for the group in a future government led by him.
Giuliani and Bolton, in addition to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose wife is Trump’s ambassador to the Vatican, also received unspecified amounts of money for speaking to the MEK. The MEK, which, as Reza Pahlavi contends, is a cult, has significant influence over the Trump administration in pushing the agenda of its National Council of Resistance of Iran, which is based in Paris. For many years, the MEK, led by the wife-and-husband team of Maryam and Massoud Rajavi, was a designated terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. The MEK was responsible for assassinating U.S. military personnel in Iran in the 1970s.
The position of the Pahlavis and Qajars is similar to that of Fethulleh Gulen, the exiled Turkish religious leader and wealthy businessman who currently lives in exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. He is wanted by Turkey’s authoritarian president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former political ally, for sedition and “terrorism.” During the 2016 U.S. election campaign, Trump campaign officials, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and former CIA director James Woolsey, met with Turkish officials to discuss a plan to kidnap Gulen and forcibly return him to Turkey. Woolsey later said that he left the September 19, 2016 meeting because the discussion of “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away” would have been illegal under U.S. law.
The Trump administration has reportedly discussed a bargain that would see Trump order the extradition of Gulen to Turkey in exchange for a U.S. Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, who has been under arrest in Turkey for allegedly aiding Gulen in an attempted coup in 2016. Any deal like that may be on ice since the break down in U.S.-Turkish relations over U.S. punishing tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum.
Khamphoui Sisavatdy is the prime minister of the Royal Lao Government in Exile (RLGE). He lives in Gresham, Oregon and represents the claimant to the Lao throne, Prince Regent Soulivong Savang, who lives in exile in Paris. The RLGE was proclaimed in 2003 and is pledged to end the rule of the communist Lao People’s Democratic Republic, which overthrew the monarchy in 1975. In 2003, the RGLE signed an agreement with the “Free Vietnamese Government” in Santa Ana, California. The Vietnamese government-in-exile largely comprises naturalized and native born Vietnamese-Americans. Their citizenship status could be jeopardized if the Trump administration finds their activities in promoting the re-establishment of the “Republic of Vietnam” in south Vietnam is anathema to Trump policies.
A new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Los Angeles has been established as a nationwide center to initiate “civil denaturalizations.” Although this new government unit is mainly targeting immigrants from south of the U.S. border, the drift net known to be deployed against all non-white immigrants could entangle southern California’s large Iranian, Vietnamese, and Laotian communities.
The mere idea that permanent residency and naturalization status could be revoked by a right-wing regime in Washington that places extremism policies over federal law and the U.S. Constitution should worry every government-in-exile and political asylum grantees in the United States.
Among those in the potential cross-hairs of the Trump administration is 58-year old Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, the grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. He is not only the claimant to the imperial throne of Ethiopia, but president of the Crown Council of Ethiopia, a de facto royalist government-in-exile. The imperial government of Ethiopia was overthrown in a 1974 military coup. Prince Ermias and his wife live in the Washington, DC area.
One of the first victims of Trump white nationalism and corporate autocracy might be the Government-in-exile of Biafra, which had existed as a self-declared independent state in southeastern Nigeria from 1967 to 1970. Today, the Biafrans, who are predominantly Christian, are trying to re-establish their independence in a country wracked by violence from jihadist extremist groups like Boko Haram. The Biafrans main political vehicle, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), has been declared a seditious group by the Nigerian government. MASSOB has re-introduced the Biafran passport and the Biafran pound, neither of which are recognized by Nigeria or internationally. The Biafran Government-in-Exile, like the Pahlavi Shah-in-waiting and the claimant to the Ethiopian throne, is based in Washington, DC. The Nigerian government has powerful lobbyists in Washington who are linked to Big Oil companies active in oil production off of the Biafran coast in the Gulf of Guinea.
Members of diaspora communities from other regions that maintain governments-in-exile are also permanent residents or citizens of the United States. These include members of the government-in-exile of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia, an English-speaking region that wants to secede from French-speaking Cameroon, and who are primarily found in the Boston area; the Coptic Government-in-Exile of Egypt, whose members are found largely in Florida; and U.S. permanent residents holding positions in the Palestinian Authority, an official observer state of the United Nations, which the Trump administration has threatened with financial and diplomatic sanctions. There are a number of other exiled groups in the United States—Tamil, Kurdish, Cambodian, Sahrawi, Somalilander, Baluchi, Shan, South Yemeni, Eritrean, Mapuche, Zanzibari, Equato-Guinean, Nepali, and others—all representing non-white nations and regions, whose residency and citizenship status are in danger from an openly racist administration.
The U.S. government, under the auspices of the Department of State or other federal agencies, once welcomed exiled governments and leaders to American shores. Under Trump and his immigration henchman, Miller, that is no longer the case. Groups and individuals already established in the United States now fear the dreaded knock on the door from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).