What was supposed to be a routine border crossing back into the US reportedly became a much higher-profile endeavour for dozens of people trying to enter Washington state from BC over the weekend.
According to the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), over 60 “Iranians and Iranian-Americans of all ages… were detained at length and questioned at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Wash.”
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CAIR also claimed that 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.”
According to CAIR, the majority of those detained were returning back to their homes in the US after attending an Iranian pop concert in Vancouver.
“Those detained reported that their passports were confiscated and they were questioned about their political views and allegiances,” said CAIR. “CBP officials contacted at the Blaine Port of Entry provided no comment or reasons for the detentions.”
In a statement, CAIR claimed a source at CBP reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had issued a national order to CBP to “report” and detain anyone with Iranian heritage entering the country who is deemed potentially suspicious or “adversarial,” regardless of citizenship status.
However, CAIR also noted that border patrol officers at the Peace Arch crossing “did not confirm or deny this report.”
Even still, “these reports are extremely troubling and potentially constitute illegal detentions of United States citizens,” said Masih Fouladi, executive director of CAIR’s Washington state 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.”
On Twitter, CBP denied such detentions took place.
Social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false. Reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are also false.
— CBP (@CBP) January 5, 2020
On Monday, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee called the reports of people being detained at the border crossing “deeply” alarming.
“This is wrong and rife with constitutional and moral problems,” he said. “No one should be treated differently due to where they come from, how they look or what language they speak.”
Inslee also rebuked CBP’s denial of the incidents, stating the agency’s reports are “simply not credible.”
There are, he furthered, “multiple firsthand accounts of CBP agents seizing people’s passports while they waited for up to 12 hours for re-entry into the United States.”
By all accounts, said Inslee, “this overreach is the direct result of President Trump’s recklessness. This is detention, regardless of whether the waiting area has bars on the windows. And it is in line with this administration’s never-ending vilification of our immigrant populations.”
To further his point, Inslee noted “Japanese-Americans were detained in Washington state during World War II and their constitutional and civic rights were removed out of fear and hatred.”
Incidents like the ones this past weekend cannot be allowed to bring about a “new era of intimidation and division,” he added. “What Americans endured over the weekend in Blaine is unacceptable. This will not stand in Washington state, and we will continue to push for answers to ensure that it does not happen again.”
In light of these recent events, Inslee vowed that he “will continue to stand up for the rights and protections of all Washingtonians.”
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