Report: CBP admits it ‘made mistakes’ detaining Iranian-Americans at border in WA

Feb 4, 2020, 8:59 AM | Updated: 9:07 am
Canada Border crossing, detaining, Iranians, Iranian-Americans...
The Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine, WA. (Daveynin, Flickr Creative Commons)

Washington lawmakers met with Customs and Border Protection officials Monday, where CBP reportedly admitted fault for recently detaining Iranian-Americans at the U.S./Canada border in Blaine.

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

“The [CBP] Director [of Field Operations for the Seattle Office] reported that the agency made mistakes and there are two investigations ongoing,” said Washington Congresswoman Suzan Delbene. “CBP acknowledged that it is unlawful to single people out based on their heritage alone.”

In early January, as many as 200 people of Iranian, Lebanese, and Palestinian descent were detained at the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine, Washington, with some held for up to 12 hours.

An initial statement from Customs and Border Patrol claimed “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.” Shortly after that, an internal memo was leaked detailing a directive to “conduct vetting” for individuals 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 went 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.”

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 had CBP slightly walking back its stance, instead stating that “at no time did DHS/CBP issue a directive to deny entry to any individual.”

While CBP has yet to issue a statement of its own regarding Monday’s meeting, other lawmakers in attendance have spoken out to confirm what transpired.

‘No known specific threats’ to Seattle in wake of Iran conflict

“For the first time, we were able to hear that there was indeed a breach of protocol and that a large number of Iranian Americans were inappropriately targeted,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Rep. Jayapal went on to note that “CBP must come clean, admit what happened, apologize to those impacted, and take steps to ensure this egregious breach of protocol and violation of civil liberties never happens again.”

Also among those who met with CBP Monday was Rep. Kim Schrier, as well as Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.

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Report: CBP admits it ‘made mistakes’ detaining Iranian-Americans at border in WA