U.S. launches investigation into Iranian-Americans held at B.C. border: congresswoman

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapa wrote that a civil rights inquiry has been opened

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties has reportedly opened an investigation into reports of up to 60 Iranian-Americans being held for hours at the Peace Arch border this past weekend.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal wrote on Twitter Wednesday that the office has opened a civil rights inquiry, and she encouraged people who were impacted by the border incident to contact crclcompliance@hq.dhs.gov.

Earlier this week, the National Iranian American Council said some individuals – who were reportedly headed back to the U.S. after attending a Persian pop concert in Vancouver – were held in detention for up to 16 hours at the Peace Arch crossing and subjected to questioning as a result of their national heritage.

The reported border delays followed a pledge of retaliation from Iran after the U.S. killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike Friday in Baghdad.

US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Michael Friel told PAN via email Monday social media posts indicating that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing them entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false.

RELATED: ‘They were targeting us’: Iranian-Canadian held at U.S. border

Reports that the Department of Homeland Security/CBP has issued a related directive are also false, he said.

The statement provided by CBP also included background information, stating that “CBP does not discriminate based on religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”

“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,” the statement reads.

Jayapal, who also serves as vice-chairwoman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship and co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus issued a news release Jan. 7 announcing her pressure on the Trump administration regarding the reported incident.

The letter, which was signed by a number of Jayapal’s colleagues, questioned the CBP’s public explanation that attributed long waits to high traffic during late hours and lower staffing levels.

The letter noted that the CBP’s public statements “do not explain why impacted persons were overwhelmingly of Iranian heritage, nor why pre-cleared U.S. citizen travelers would have been placed in secondary inspection and delayed for five hours,” or “why individuals appear to have been detained throughout the day on January 4, beginning as early as 8 a.m.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

Ucluelet fire crew extinguishes residential blaze

Ucluelet’s fire chief is praising his crew for making short work of a residential blaze on Tuesday.

DFO reports unusually high whale mortalities in 2020

“It’s so important to have all these eyes and ears in the community reporting these deaths.”

Tofino housing project criticized at public hearing

Town’s council hosts first public hearing since start of COVID-19 pandemic.

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Most Read