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Reports of Iranian Americans being Detained, Interrogated by Border Patrol

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Reports of Iranian Americans being Detained, Interrogated by Border Patrol

Late Saturday evening, unofficial reports from government watchdogs and attorneys nationwide began circulating regarding the detention of Iranians seeking entry to the United States. Reports indicated up to 200 Iranian-born individuals, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, were being detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) this weekend.

Some reports also stated that Iranian lawful permanent residents were being stripped of their green cards at Los Angeles International Airport, and that Iranian-born individuals were being detained regardless of their U.S. immigration status.

Here is what we do know thus far. On Saturday, January 4, 2020, about 60+ Iranian Americans were detained at the U.S.-Canada border in Washington state as they attempted to re-enter the United States following an Iranian musician’s concert they attended in Vancouver, Canada.

Many of these individuals were U.S. citizens, who were later allowed re-entry into the U.S. after several hours in secondary inspection with CBP. Although unconfirmed at this time, there may be several other U.S. citizens of Iranian origin who remain in CBP custody while others were turned away and told by CBP that the border station had reached capacity and could not process any more entries Saturday evening. Those who were detained, reports state, were questioned about their political opinions, allegiances, and studies. Non-profit organizations and attorneys have been in touch individuals and families with the assistance they need.

One person has discussed her experience being interrogated by CBP this weekend. A 24-year-old American citizen and medical student, Crystal, was detained and interrogated for over 10 hours with her family at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Washington before being released early Sunday morning. “

The vast majority of people being held last night were American citizens, said Crystal. “We kept asking why we were being detained and asked questions that had nothing to do with our reason for traveling and was told ‘I’m sorry this is just the wrong time for you guys.’ CBP at the Peace Arch Border Crossing did not confirm or deny that the alleged CBP directive was in place.

“These reports are extremely troubling and potentially constitute illegal detentions of United States citizens,” said Masih Fouladi, Executive Director of CAIR Washington.

“We are working to verify reports of a broad nationwide directive to detain Iranian-Americans at ports of entry, so that we can provide community members with accurate travel guidance. We will continue to update the community and other civil rights organizations as we obtain more information”

“This clear, gross violation of US law acts only as a further escalation of continued violence and aggression toward Iran and Iranian people that have only escalated with Trump’s Travel Ban on Iranian nationals, the withdrawal from the JCPOA/Iran Nuclear Deal despite Iran’s compliance, the addition of crippling US sanctions on Iran which have taken a deep toll on the lives of everyday Iranians, and most recently the reckless assassination of Iranian top military general Qasem Soleimani.”

said Hoda Katebi, Iranian-American writer and activist.

Again, it is too early to confirm at this time, but our understanding is that these Iranian born U.S. citizens were detained because of a recent directive given to CBP, in the aftermath of the recent assassination of Iran’s top military general, Qasem Soleimani.

The ensuing tensions resulted in the CBP directive to report any Iranian nationals and Iranian Americans deemed as suspicious or adversarial.  This includes U.S. citizens of Iranian descent. At the time of this piece, we have not seen the directive and CBP has denied claims of any order to detain Iranians and Iranian Americans.

If you or a loved one may be impacted by these recent events, we encourage you to reach out to us directly. If you or a loved one are traveling through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, we encourage you to reach out to CAIR-Chicago’s Travelers Assistance Project (“TAP”) hotline number, establish in response to the January 2017 “Travel Ban.” That number is (872) 333-2737.  Please use this hotline to report real-time issues at O’Hare or, after gaining (or being denied) re-entry, to report any concerns with treatment or questioning by CBP.

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