Assyrian Americans

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Assyrian Americans
Assyrian American Civic Club of Chicago demonstration 2016.jpg
Assyrian-Americans have a long history in Chicago; they are seen here in a protest march carrying American and Assyrian flags
Total population
82,355 (2000 census)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Arizona · California · Illinois · Michigan
American English, Neo-Aramaic: 77,547[2]
Mainly Christianity
(majority: Syriac Christianity; minority: Protestantism)
Related ethnic groups
British Assyrians, Assyrian Australians, Assyrian Canadians

Assyrian Americans or Chaldean Americans refers to people born in or residing in the United States of full or partial Assyrian origin.

The Assyrians are the indigenous pre-Arab, pre-Kurdish, pre-Persian, and pre-Turkic people of Upper Mesopotamia (modern Northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey and northwest Iran), who speak dialects of Eastern Aramaic and are predominately Christian, with most following the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Ancient Church of the East, Assyrian Pentecostal Church, Assyrian Evangelical Church, Syriac Catholic Church, although some are irreligious.[3] Most Assyrians in the US have mostly migrated from Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Jordan, Syria and the Caucasus.

The 2000 U.S. census counted 82,355 Assyrians in the country, of whom 42% (34,484) lived in Michigan.[1] However, Assyrian American organizations claim that their population in 2010 is around 400,000.[4] The largest Assyrian/Chaldean diaspora is located in Metropolitan Detroit, with a figure of 100,000 as of 2007. High concentrations are also located in Chicago, Phoenix, San Jose, Modesto, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Turlock, among others.[5]

The first large wave of Assyrian immigration to the United States due to the Assyrian Genocide, which occurred 1914–1920. The United States is home to the third largest Assyrian community in the world.[6]


Assyrians have been present in the United States since the late 19th century. The first recorded Assyrian in America was Zia Attala.[7] He reportedly immigrated to Philadelphia in 1889 and found work in the hotel industry.[8] Most early Assyrian immigrants, however, were young men sent by Western missionaries for religious training.[9]

Following the turn of the century, Assyrian immigration to America mostly came to a halt due to the Immigration Act of 1924 which effectively cut off any legal immigration to the United States for Assyrians and other non Western European groups. The second large wave of Immigration occurred in the 1960s and 70s, made up mostly of ethnic Assyrians (many of whom were members of the Chaldean Catholic Church) from northern Iraq coming due to conflicts and persecution by the Baathist government of Iraq. Many Assyrians also arrived during this period to take advantage of the situation in Detroit, which was suffering from white flight.

Due to white flight, Assyrians in Detroit gained a monopoly over grocery stores and other small businesses, and in many cases used their finances and newfound wealth to benefit the Assyrian community there and take in Assyrian refugees from Iraq. More Assyrians arrived throughout the 80s and 90s for similar reasons, with newer residents moving out of Detroit into suburbs such as Royal Oak and Sterling Heights due to the Crack epidemic in Detroit, while others began to move to San Diego, establishing a new Assyrian community there.

In 2005, the first Assyrian school in the United States, the Assyrian American Christian School, opened in Tarzana, Los Angeles.

A majority of Chaldeans were "staunch supporters" of the Donald Trump presidential campaign in 2016.[10]

In Detroit[edit]

Chaldean Catholic Church in Detroit Chaldean Christians immigration, mainly to Detroit, Michigan began in the early 20th century.

Assyrian immigration to the cities in Michigan began in the early 20th century. The cities in the state include, but are not limited to, Detroit, Southfield, Sterling Heights, Oak Park, Troy, West Bloomfield, Commerce, Walled Lake, Rochester Hills, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Warren, Bloomfield Hills and Ann Arbor. More and more Assyrians-Chaldeans, as they establish themselves financially, quickly move out of Detroit and into the other locations, including San Diego and cities in Arizona.

Before the 1970s, Assyrians came to the United States in search of greater economic opportunities. After the 1970s, many Assyrians fled for political freedom, especially after the rise of Saddam Hussein and, after the Persian Gulf War. Some were drawn by the economic opportunities they had seen successfully affect their family members who had already immigrated.

Less stringent immigration laws during the 1960s and 1970s facilitated increasing numbers, with the 1970s seeing the highest number of Assyrians coming to the United States. In 1962, the number of Assyrian owned grocery stores was 120, but grew to 278 in 1972. The main cause of this were the 1967 Detroit riots, after which Jewish grocery store owners left the area and left the opportunity open for Assyrians to take over. Often these Jews sold their old stores to Assyrians.[11]

Iraqi president Saddam Hussein donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Chaldean Catholic churches in Detroit and received a key to the city in the 1980s on behalf of mayor Coleman Young, when the Baath regime was an ally of the United States government.[12]

Mostly all new Chaldean Catholic immigrants and low-income senior citizens tend to reside in Detroit, in the 7 Mile Road between Woodward Avenue and John R Street. This area was officially named Chaldean Town in 1999.[13] There are eight Chaldean Catholic churches in Metropolitan Detroit, located in West Bloomfield, Troy (where there are two), Oak Park, Southfield, Warren, Sterling Heights and Detroit.

In California[edit]

After World War II, several Assyrian men who had been educated in Iraq by American Jesuits traveled to the United States. They were to teach Arabic to U.S. officers at the Army Language School who were going to be stationed in the Middle East. The men started the San Diego-area Chaldean Catholic community. Yasmeen S. Hanoosh, author of The Politics of Minority Chaldeans Between Iraq and America, wrote that the Chaldean in San Diego "continued to grow in relative isolation from the family-chain-migration based communities in and around Michigan."[14]


According to the 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates there are 110,807 Assyrian people in the United States.[15][2]


There are 26,378 living in Michigan according to the 2000 United States Census.[16]


There are 22,671 living in California according to the 2000 United States Census.[17]


There are 34,685 living in Illinois according to the 2000 United States Census.[18]

Syriac and Syrian distinction[edit]

The U.S. federal government took the word Syrian to mean Arabs from the Syrian Arab Republic and not as one of the terms to identify the ethnically distinct Assyrians, although the terms Syrian and Syriac are accepted by mainstream majority academic opinion to be etymologically derivative of the term Assyrian,[19][20] and historically meant Assyrian (see Etymology of Syria). In addition, the Syrian Arab Republic is home to many ethnicities, including Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds, Syriac-Arameans, Armenians, Greeks, Circassians, Dom, and Turcomans, and is not an exclusively Arab nation.

The Syriac Orthodox Church was previously known as the Syrian Orthodox Church until a Holy Synod in 2000 voted to change it to Syriac, thus distinguishing from the Arabs. Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim wrote a letter to the Syriacs in 2000 urging them to register in the census as Syriac with a C, and not Syrian with an N to distinguish the group. He also urged them not to register as the country of origin.[21]

On the U.S. census, there is a section for the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriacs, which is listed separately from Syrian, Syrian being a subcategory for Arab.[22]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Hanoosh, Yasmeen H. The Politics of Minority Chaldeans Between Iraq and America. ProQuest, 2008. ISBN 0549984755, 9780549984757.
  • Henrich, Natalie and Joseph Henrich. Why Humans Cooperate : A Cultural and Evolutionary Explanation: A Cultural and Evolutionary Explanation. Oxford University Press, May 30, 2007. ISBN 0198041179, 9780198041177.


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  2. ^ a b "Selected Population Profile in the United States : 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  3. ^ Alexei Krindatch. "Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  4. ^ BetBasoo, Peter. Diaspora: 1918 to present, History of Assyrians, Assyrian International News Agency (AINA).
  5. ^ Henrich and Henrich, p. 81-82.
  6. ^ "Chaldean Chamber of Commerce | The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce is a partnership of Chaldean businesses and professionals working together to strengthen members' businesses, increase job opportunities, encourage expansion and promote Chaldean business and culture. The Chamber seeks to service and represent Aramaic-speaking people, including Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs". 2012-05-16. Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  7. ^ "6: Migrating to a New Land". Center for Migration Studies special issues. 15 (1): 63–74. 1999-01-01. doi:10.1111/j.2050-411X.1999.tb00189.x. ISSN 2050-411X. 
  8. ^ Reimers, David (2005-01-01). Other Immigrants: The Global Origins of the American People. NYU Press. ISBN 9780814775356. 
  10. ^ "Chaldean Catholics and Iraqi Kurds face deportation". Retrieved 25 July 2017. 
  11. ^ Chafets, Ze'ev. Devils Night: and Other True Tales of Detroit. New York: Random House, 1990
  12. ^ "March 31, 2003". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  13. ^ Adrian Humphreys (2 September 2011). "U.S. police foil Canada-to-Iraq luxury-car scheme". National Post. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  14. ^ Hanoosh, p. 195.
  15. ^ Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). "American FactFinder – Results". Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  16. ^ "Census 2000 Summary File 3 (SF 3) – Sample Data: Michigan". United States Census Bureau. December 2000. Archived from the original on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2015-12-21. 
  17. ^ "Census 2000 Summary File 3 (SF 3) – Sample Data: California". United States Census Bureau. December 2000. Archived from the original on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2015-12-21. 
  18. ^ "Census 2000 Summary File 3 (SF 3) – Sample Data: Illinois". United States Census Bureau. December 2000. Archived from the original on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2015-12-21. 
  19. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana, International ed. (c1986) Danbury, Conn.: Grolier
  20. ^ Frye, R. N. (October 1992). "Assyria and Syria: Synonyms" (PDF). Journal of Near Eastern Studies 51 (4): 281–285. doi:10.1086/373570.
  21. ^ "Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim – Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  22. ^ "American FactFinder". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 

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