Monday, 6 January 2020

Reports: US Detaining Iranians and Iranian-Americans at Border and Ports of Entry for Extra Screening (Update: CBP Denies, but…)

Reports are coming Sunday that the U.S. is detaining Iranians and Iranian-Americans at border crossings and ports of entry for extra screening as tensions increase between Iran and United States. On Saturday the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that Iran and Hezbollah are capable of attacks inside the U.S., indicating sleeper cells are in place waiting to be activated. 
Former Iran Quds Force leader Major General Qassem Soleimani, killed in U.S. drone strike on Friday.
As can be expected, activist groups are having a fit.

CAIR got involved and issued a press release:  

CAIR (excerpt):
The Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA) is assisting more than 60 Iranians and Iranian-Americans of all ages who were detained at length and questioned at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Wash.
Many more were reportedly refused entry to the United States due to a lack of capacity for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to detain them.
Other Iranian-Americans are about to cross the Peace Arch Border as they return back to their homes in the United States from an Iranian pop concert that was taking place on Saturday in Vancouver, Canada.
Those detained reported that their passports were confiscated and they were questioned about their political views and allegiances. CBP officials contacted at the Blaine Port of Entry provided no comment or reasons for the detentions.
…Crystal, a 24-year-old American citizen and medical student was allegedly detained and interrogated for more than 10 hours with her family at the Peace Arch Border Crossing before being released early this morning. “The vast majority of people being held last night were American citizens,” said Crystal. “We kept asking why we were being detained and asked questions that had nothing to do with our reason for traveling and was told ‘I’m sorry this is just the wrong time for you guys.’”
A source at CBP reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has 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. CBP at the Peace Arch Border Crossing did not confirm or deny this report.
“These reports are extremely troubling and potentially constitute illegal detentions of United States citizens,” said Masih Fouladi, executive director of CAIR-WA. “We are working to verify reports of a broad nationwide directive to detain Iranian-Americans at ports of entry so that we can provide community members with accurate travel guidance. We will continue to update the community and other civil rights organizations as we obtain more information.”…
Happening at JFK in New York also, “Well, just landed at JFK and — no surprise — got taken to the special side room and got asked (among other things) how I feel about the situation with Iran. I wanted to be like: my book comes out in September, preorder now on amazon”  
Reputed pro-regime group NIAC got involved also, “URGENT: we are hearing credible reports of detentions at US borders, both of Iranian Americans and permanent residents. We are working to independently verify, coordinating with lawmakers & allies. If you have information please share it directly with us at…We are still in the info-gathering stage, but reports suggest that many individuals of Iranian heritage have been detained for questioning at ports of entry – both at airports and border crossings. Most reports are originating from the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine, WA…Members of Congress and other immigration and community-based organizations and activists are hearing the same reports, and we are seeking to connect individuals impacted with legislators in order to secure their release and halt unwarranted and discriminatory detentions…”   
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is getting involved, “Deeply disturbed by reports that Iranian Americans, including U.S. citizens, are being detained at the Canadian border with WA State. My office has been working on this all morning. Please contact us with information on directly affected people at” 

On January 2, 2020, the United States carried out a lethal strike in Iraq killing Iranian IRGC-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani while Soleimani was in Iraq.
Iranian leadership and several affiliated violent extremist organizations publicly stated they intend to retaliate against the United States.
At this time we have no information indicating a specific, credible threat to the Homeland. Iran and its partners, such as Hizballah, have demonstrated the intent and capability to conduct operations in the United States.
Previous homeland-based plots have included, among other things, scouting and planning against infrastructure targets and cyber enabled attacks against a range of U.S.-based targets.
Iran maintains a robust cyber program and can execute cyber attacks against the United States. Iran is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effects against critical infrastructure in the United States.
Iran likely views terrorist activities as an option to deter or retaliate against its perceived adversaries. In many instances, Iran has targeted United States interests through its partners such as Hizballah.
Homegrown Violent Extremists could capitalize on the heightened tensions to launch individual attacks.
An attack in the homeland may come with little or no warning.
The Department of Homeland Security is working closely with our federal, state, local, and private sector partners to detect and defend against threats to the Homeland, and will enhance security measures as necessary.
UPDATE: CBP denies, but…”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. Reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are also false.” 

…but CBP said they have an “enhanced posture” for screening entrants right now (via CNN):
CBP said that the Blaine port of entry experienced increased wait times “to an average of two hours on Saturday evening, although some travelers experienced wait times of up to four hours due to increased volume and reduced staff during the holiday season.”
The agency said that “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.”
A NY Times reporter anda former CBP commissioner noted country of origin can be a factor in secondary screenings. 

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