WASHINGTON (KPTV) - An Islamic civil rights group claims dozens of Iranians and Iranian-Americans were held at the Canadian border for hours while attempting to return home to the U.S. following a concert in British Columbia.
A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection told FOX 12 that Iranians and Iranian-Americans were not “detained” at the border but some of them were subjected to “secondary screenings” Saturday at the Peace Arch Border Crossing.
The two terms are different, but both involve additional questioning and security measures.
“They were given an orange card and told they had to get out of their cars,” said Masih Fouladi, the executive director of Washington state’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR.)
“Once we realized the magnitude of potentially 50-60 people, we feared this worst that this could potentially be another thing that's going to happen across the country,” Fouladi added.
In a news release, CAIR said more than 60 travelers were stopped and many of them were driving home to the U.S. after attending a pop concert performed by an Iranian duo in Vancouver, B.C.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesman said secondary screenings are common, but he didn’t respond to questions as to how many travelers of Iranian heritage were stopped or for how long.
According to the agency, customs and border officers are operating with enhanced security measures to protect Americans and national security.
It comes just a day after the Department of Homeland Security updated its terrorism threat advisory system following the U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general. The death sparked backlash from Iran and then subsequent threats to the country from President Trump.
The delays and screenings as the Washington-Canadian border brought scrutiny from Gov. Jay Inslee as well.
Sunday afternoon, Inslee tweeted: “My office is closely tracking reports that Iranian Americans, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, have been detained at the WA-Canada border.”
Another tweet said, “Homeland Security has informed my office they did not issue an order to detain or refuse entry to Iranian Americans. However, we are continuing to seek answers from federal officials and talk to those caught at the border.”
CAIR said some travelers were held at the border for more than ten hours, had their passports confiscated and were questioned about their political views and allegiances.
CAIR said travelers were ultimately released.
Federal authorities said increased volumes of travelers coupled with short staffing due to the holidays led to some delays at the border Saturday.
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