January 23, 2020

Senators Warren and Markey, and Rep. Pressley Demand Answers from Trump Admin on Removal of Student Shahab Dehghani, Pattern of Targeting Iranian Students

Since 2019, CBP officials at Logan Airport have been refusing entry to Iranian students with valid student visas

Text of the Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC – Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) today demanded Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provide answers on a pattern of targeting Iranian students for inspection and removal from the United States, and in particular, its apparent refusal to comply with an emergency federal court order to stay the deportation of student Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi. On January 19, Mr. Dehghani attempted to enter the United States on a valid student visa to return to classes at Northeastern University, but was instead detained, questioned, and ordered to be removed by CBP officials. Despite the fact that a Massachusetts district court judge granted an emergency stay of removal prior to Mr. Dehghani’s departure, CBP still went ahead and required Mr. Dehghani to board a flight and return to Iran.

Mr. Dehghani had previously undergone extensive background vetting and security checks in order to receive his student visa. In at least seven other cases, CBP has arbitrarily found Iranian students to be inadmissible and ordered them removed, despite the students having already received visas and been admitted to the United States. This latest incident involving Mr. Dehghani comes on the heels of CBP’s detention of more than sixty Iranian and Iranian-Americans at the border crossing between Canada and Washington on January 4. 

“We are also deeply troubled by the manner in which CBP handled the detention and removal of Mr. Dehghani, especially its apparent refusal to comply with an emergency federal court order to stay his deportation,” write the lawmakers in their letter to CBP Acting Commissioner Mark A. Morgan. “Distressingly this is not the first time CBP has denied entry to foreign nationals in direct violation of the law. At minimum, we would expect CBP to have since recognized that it is not above the law and cannot defy a federal court order. It is highly concerning to us that CBP has instead decided to repeat this unlawful behavior.” 

Senator Warren has actively opposed discriminatory efforts by the Administration, including its Muslim ban. Earlier this month, she wrote a letter to CBP requesting information regarding recent reports that dozens of Iranian Americans and others of Iranian heritage have been subjected to additional scrutiny at U.S. border crossings or have been denied entry into the country. She also worked with Senate colleagues on another inquiry of CBP’s practices regarding enhanced inspections at ports of entry, particularly of Iranians and Iranian Americans.