Jan. 6 (UPI) — Dozens of Iranians and Iranian-Americans were detained for hours at the Washington state-Canada border over the weekend, a Muslim rights and advocacy group said.
In a statement Sunday, the Washington chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said more than 60 Iranians and U.S. citizens of Iranian descent were detained “at length and questioned” at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine while others were refused entry.
“Those detained reported that their passports were confiscated and they were questioned about their political views and allegiances,” CAIR said, adding that the detentions come as more Iranian-Americans plan to return to the United States following an Iranian pop concert Saturday night in Vancouver, British Columbia.
CAIR said some people were being detained for up to 10 hours.
“These reports are extremely troubling and potentially constitute illegal detentions of United States,” said CAIR’s Washington branch Executive Director Masih Fouladi. “…We will continue to update the community and other civil rights organizations as we obtain more information.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection refuted the allegations of purposefully detaining and denying entry to Iranians at the border because of their country of origin as “false.”
CBP said the Blaine port of entry experienced an average wait time of two hours on Saturday evening with some travelers having to wait up to four hours “due to increased volume and reduced staff during the holiday season.”
“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 American people while simultaneously protecting the civil rights and liberties of everyone,” CBP said.
Cyrus Habib, lieutenant governor for Washington state, said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned” about reports of U.S. citizens of Iranian descent and their families being detained at the border and was working to gather more information.
Gov. Jay Inslee said via Twitter that his office is tracking reports of those detained at the border and was informed by the Department of Homeland Security that it did not issue an order to detain these people.
“However, we are continuing to seek answers from federal officials and talk to those caught at the border,” he said.