Gov. Inslee: ‘CBP lied’ about detention of Iranian-Americans at border

Jan 31, 2020, 8:55 AM | Updated: 9:23 am
US Canada Border Blaine Washington, border closure...
The U.S./Canada border crossing in Blaine, Washington. (Jasperdo, Flickr Creative Commons)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee weighed in Thursday on a recently-released memo, that appears to counter claims from Customs and Border Patrol regarding alleged racial profiling of Iranian-Americans at the U.S./Canada border in Blaine.

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“This internal memo appears to make it clear: CBP lied,” Gov. Inslee Tweeted.

An internal memo issued to CBP’s Seattle office details a coordinated effort in early January to “conduct vetting” for individuals at the border born between 1961 and 2001, from Palestine, Lebanon, and Iran, as well as “any other nationality that has traveled to Iran or Lebanon.”

The memo goes on to recommend additional vetting to determine “extremist ideology,” and “deceptive behaviors,” as well as connections to the Shia sect of Islam, with “scrutiny on military questions.”

Reports from the border in early January claimed that some people had been held for upwards of 12 hours.

That all runs counter to initial claims from CBP weeks ago, stating that “reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are … false.”

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“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,” CBP said in an early-January statement to KIRO 7 TV.

CBP slightly walked that back in a follow-up statement released Friday.

“We can’t comment on leaked documents, however, the matter is under investigation. At no time did DHS/CBP issue a directive to deny entry to any individual,” CBP stated, no longer denying the allegation that Iranian-Americans were detained or subjected to additional screening based on their nationality.

“As part of a multi-layered approach to security, CBP officers may refer for additional screening individuals who present a known risk or individuals about whom we need more information to make a determination of risk,” CBP’s statement continued. “These referrals are based on factors that could include the individual’s activities, associations and travel patterns.”

“There is no excuse for detaining and interrogating Americans based on their country of origin or religion,” Inslee said Thursday. “This will not stand in WA state. We will continue to push for answers and hold the Trump admin. accountable to ensure it does not happen again.”

Crosscut and Blaine newspaper The Northern Light first acquired the memo from local immigration lawyer Leonard Saunders, after it was dropped off at his office in an unmarked envelope by an anonymous source.

That backs up information provided to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) from a CBP source, that said the Department of Homeland Security 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.” According to The Northern Light, that operation was reportedly suspended after the detentions began circulating in national news.

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Gov. Inslee: ‘CBP lied’ about detention of Iranian-Americans at border