US Customs and Border Protection denies detaining Iranians, Iranian Americans originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued a statement saying allegations they are singling out and stopping Iranian Americans as they try to enter the country are false.
"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," CBP said in a statement Sunday. "Reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are also false."
As a federal agency, CBP is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, creed, gender or religion. However, the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Sunday that more than 60 Iranians and Iranian Americans were detained and questioned at length at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Washington.
"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," CAIR-WA said in a statement.
At a press conference Monday, Masih Fouladi, executive director of CAIR-WA, said they had spoken to three U.S. families who were held at the border for eight to 11 hours. He said the families were asked "loyalty questions," and told to list all of their Iranian family members.
Negah Hekmati, an Iranian American citizen, said that after her husband told border officials Saturday they had been born Iran they were asked to enter the CBP office. While in the office, Hekmati said their Nexus cards, passports and car keys were confiscated. Hekmati said she and her husband, who say they were held for five hours while returning from a ski trip, were questioned about their Facebook accounts, what high schools they attended and her husband's past military service.
She said her children were scared and told her, "Please don’t speak Farsi. Maybe if you don’t speak Farsi they won’t take you."
CBP said there was an average two-hour wait, with some up to four hours, at Blaine Saturday evening simply due to an increased number of people and fewer staff members during the holidays.
The agency is operating with an enhanced posture due to the current threat, but said it is still protecting the civil rights of those passing through the points of entry nationwide.
The reports came in the aftermath of the death of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Thursday. Soleimani was killed in Iraq near the Baghdad International Airport by an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump.
Hours after the airstrike, Trump said, "We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war."
"Last night at my direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike that killed the number one terrorist anywhere in the world," Trump added.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed support for the president’s decision. During an appearance on ABC's "This Week," Pompeo said, "It's very clear the world's a safer place today."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told "This Week" that he feels Trump has made a "mess of foreign policy." He also noted that he is worried that this most recent airstrike will lead to war.
ABC News' Jack Date contributed to this report.