Iranians report being stopped, facing delays at US border

Jocelyne Zablit - Agence France-Presse
Iranians report being stopped, facing delays at US border
Iranians burn an Israeli and a US flag during an anti-US protest over the killings during a US air stike of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in the capital Tehran on January 4, 2020.
AFP / Atta Kenare

LOS ANGELES, United States — Dozens of Iranians and Iranian-Americans have reported being harassed or questioned for hours at the US border following heightened tensions over the US killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group, said it had provided assistance to more than 60 travelers who were detained at length over the weekend and questioned about their political views at Washington state's border with Canada.

Many of them were reportedly denied entry to the US due to a lack of capacity for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to detain them.

One 24-year-old only identified as Crystal by CAIR said she was detained and interrogated for more than 10 hours with her family at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Washington, before being released early Sunday.

She said when the family asked why they were being detained, CBP agents said, "It is just the wrong time for you guys."

"These reports are extremely troubling and potentially constitute illegal detentions of United States citizens," said Masih Fouladi, executive director of CAIR's Washington chapter. "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." 

However, CBP officials have disputed the reports, saying that long delays at the border were due to increased traffic because of the holiday season and a shortage of staff to process travelers.

They also insist that the agency does not discriminate based on religion, race or ethnicity.

'Constitutional and moral problems'

"Social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the US because of their country of origin are false," CBP spokesman Michael Friel told AFP.

He added that reports that the Department of Homeland Security and CBP had issued a directive to bar Iranian-Americans from entering the country were also false.

A security official who did not wish to be identified said that the increased delays Iranian-Americans faced at the border were related to CBP "operating with an enhanced posture at its ports of entry to safeguard our national security." 

The delays at the border have been condemned by public officials, with many accusing the Trump administration of overreach.

"Washingtonians who happen to be Iranian-American were detained at the Canadian-US border for extended periods of time for no other reason than their ethnicity or country of origin," Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement. 

"This is wrong and rife with constitutional and moral problems," he added. "No one should be treated differently due to where they come from, how they look or what language they speak."

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a top Democratic candidate in the US presidential race, said she found the reports "deeply disturbing."

"Iranian Americans have the same rights as all other US citizens and should be treated with dignity and respect at our border -- not bigoted, xenophobic scrutiny," she said in a tweet.

The increased scrutiny at the border comes after Iran vowed to avenge Soleimani's killing in a drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: March 2, 2020 - 8:13am

Saudi Arabia reveals extensive damage to key oil facilities following weekend aerial strikes that were blamed on Iran, but vows to quickly restore full production even as regional tensions soar.

Yemen's Tehran-linked Huthi rebels, who announced a sudden halt to attacks on Saudi Arabia, claims the strikes on state giant Aramco's facilities in Khurais and the world's largest oil processing facility at Abqaiq.

But Washington has pointed the finger at Tehran, condemning an "act of war" which knocked out half of Saudi Arabia's oil production and on Friday prompted US President Donald Trump to sketch out the latest in a series of economic sanctions against Iran. — AFP

March 2, 2020 - 8:13am

Two rockets crashes overnight near the US embassy in the Iraqi capital's Green Zone, a security source said, in the 20th attack against US assets in the country in four months. 

None of the multiple attacks since October targeting either the Baghdad embassy or the roughly 5,200 US troops stationed across Iraq has been claimed.

But the US has pointed the finger at Iran-backed groups within the Hashed al-Shaabi, a military network officially incorporated into Iraq’s state security forces. — AFP

February 2, 2020 - 2:39pm

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell is expected in Tehran Monday, Iran's foreign ministry announces a day ahead of the visit, amid new tensions over the Iranian nuclear issue.

Borrell "will visit Iran tomorrow for the first time since taking office (in early December). He is set to meet the foreign minister (Mohammad Javad Zarif) and other Iranian senior officials for consultations," foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Moussavi says in a statement. — AFP

January 29, 2020 - 12:33pm

The number of US troops injured by an Iranian missile strike in Iraq this month has risen to 50, according to new figures released by the Pentagon on Tuesday.

The personnel have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI), Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

The military had said on Friday that 34 troops were injured in the strike on the Ain al-Asad base in western Iraq on January 8.

US President Donald Trump had initially said no Americans were hurt by the missiles, and Democrats later accused him of trying to downplay the injuries.

Iran fired on Iraqi bases housing US troops in retaliation for an American drone attack that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, raising fears of war. — AFP

January 21, 2020 - 9:09am

Three rockets hit near the US embassy in the Iraqi capital's high-security Green Zone, security sources told AFP, with no immediate reports of casualties. 

Sirens could be heard across the zone immediately after the rockets made impact. 

The US has blamed Iran-backed paramilitary groups for a spate of similar attacks in recent months on the Green Zone, but there has never been a claim of responsibility.

January 18, 2020 - 2:46pm

President Donald Trump warns Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to be "very careful with his words."

"The so-called 'Supreme Leader' of Iran, who has not been so Supreme lately, had some nasty things to say about the United States and Europe," Trump tweets of Khamenei's comments in Tehran.

According to Trump, Khamenei's blistering speech, in which he attacked the "vicious" United States and described Britain, France and Germany as "America's lackey's," is a mistake.

"Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!" Trump tweets.

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