Due to the escalating tension in the middle east, US Customs and Border Protection detained dozens of people with ties to Iran at the United States and Canadian border over the weekend
Days after the death via airstrike of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military official, which was ordered by President Donald Trump, the United States is detaining Iranians and Iranian Americans at the US-Canada border according to multiple reports.
According to a press release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil-rights group, over the weekend the US Customs and Border Protection detained “at length” and questioned over 60 Iranians and Iranian Americans. The detainments occurred at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Washington and many were returning home to the United States from an Iranian pop concert held in Vancouver on Saturday.
“Many more were reportedly refused entry to the United States due to a lack of capacity for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to detain them,” the organization wrote.
According to the group, those who were detained had their passports confiscated and “were questioned about their political views and allegiances.” When CBP officials were contacted at the Blaine Port of Entry by the group, they “provided no comment or reasons for the detentions.”
“Crystal, a 24-year-old American citizen and medical student was allegedly detained and interrogated for more than 10 hours with her family at the Peace Arch Border Crossing before being released early this morning,” the group explained. “The vast majority of people being held last night were American citizens,” said Crystal, according to the release. “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.’”
Vancouver resident Sam Sadr, born in Tehran, told POLITICO that he was detained for nine hours with his family. The group was were headed to Seattle for the day, however, a CBP agent noticed Iran was mentioned on his passport. They were asked to pull over and walk into the border office, where they remained from 11:07 a.m. Pacific time to 7:45 p.m. At that time they were finally allowed to enter the US.
While at the office their passports were taken and they were asked the same questions over and over, regarding things such as their education, military background, and whether they had licensed firearms.
“Why me? Why my parents? Why my sisters, brothers? I don’t know,” said Sadr, a professional photographer who has been a Canadian citizen for two years explained. “We are innocent. … This completely discriminates.”
“These reports are extremely troubling and potentially constitute illegal detentions of United States citizens,” Masih Fouladi, executive director of CAIR-WA, said in the release. “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.”
CBP has denied the detentions happened, issuing an email statement to Business Insider on Sunday. “Social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the US because of their country of origin are false,” Friel said. “Reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are also false.”
Hamed Aleaziz, immigration reporter for BuzzFeed News, tweeted that the agency told him they are “operating with an enhanced posture at its ports of entry” based on the current “threat environment.”
“Based on the current threat environment, CBP is operating with an enhanced posture at its ports of entry to safeguard our national security and protect the America people while simultaneously protecting the civil rights and liberties of everyone,” he claims they told him.
Additionally, the US Embassy in Israel issued a travel advisory for Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza due to “heightened tension in the Middle East.”
“Out of an abundance of caution, the Embassy strongly encourages US citizens to remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness, as security incidents, including rocket fire, often take place without warning,” they said in their statement.