Iranian-Americans stopped, questioned for hours at Washington-Canada border, group says

Vehicles line up to enter the United States at the border crossing between Blaine, Washington and White Rock, British Columbia November 8, 2001 in White Rock, BC.

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Vehicles line up to enter the United States at the border crossing between Blaine, Washington and White Rock, British Columbia November 8, 2001 in White Rock, BC.

Officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations—Washington said more than 60 Iranian-Americans and Iranians were detained and questioned Saturday while trying to cross into Washington state from Canada at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine.

People reported having their passports taken by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and being questioned about political views and allegiances, some for nearly 12 hours, according to CAIR-WA. The advocacy group said it was assisting the families but did not believe anyone stopped Saturday was still being questioned Sunday night.

"They were given an orange card and told that they had to get out of the cars. Their keys were taken from them and they were put in this waiting area," CAIR-WA Executive Director Masih Fouladi told KIRO-TV. "Many of these people were U.S. citizens and the questions they were being asked were essentially loyalty questions or whether they were loyal to the American government and their involvement with the Iranian government."

Fouladi said many of the people reported being in Canada for vacation and to attend a concert. “Many more” were not allowed to cross the border at all Saturday night, according to CAIR-WA.

In a statement to KIRO-TV, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Mike Friel denied Iranian-Americans were detained.

“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," he said. "Reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are also false.”

Fouladi said the statement from authorities was “very vague.”

“They might not think that they’re detaining people because they’re Iranian, just like they said they weren’t detaining people during the Muslim ban, but we all know that that happened,” Fouladi said. “This is just a tried and true method for them to deny, deny, deny.”

In a tweet posted Sunday, Gov. Jay Inslee said his office was monitoring "reports that Iranian Americans, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, have been detained at the WA-Canada border.”

“@DHSgov has informed my office they did not issue an order to detain or refuse entry to Iranian Americans,” Inslee tweeted. “However, we are continuing to seek answers from federal officials and talk to those caught at the border.”

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