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Iranians Are Being Questioned And Detained By US Border Patrol In What Appears To Be Racial Profiling

Iranian-Americans were held by U.S. immigration agents at the Canadian border over the weekend, following escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Traveling Iranian Americans now fear being racially profiled by Customs and Border Protection as they re-enter the county. 

CBP says they have enhanced security at ports of entry, according to NPR. Homeland Security is also on high alert as Iran’s leaders vowed they would retaliate for the U.S. airstrike that killed the military leader Qassem Soleimani. The country kept its promise yesterday when it fired over a dozen ballistic missiles at American bases in Iraq. 

Today President Donald Trump announced an increase in sanctions on Iran, rather than using military force (right now), as a response. 

Iranian Americans pay the price for U.S. conflicts in the middle east.

Roughly 200 Iranian Americans were held for up to 12 hours at the Peace Arch Border Crossing last weekend. 

“I’ve heard from people who are saying they’re going to cancel their vacations,” said Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council in Washington, D.C., told NPR. “They had planned to travel abroad or, you know, leave the country for spring break. And people are already saying we’re going to cancel those trips because we don’t know what we’re supposed to do.”

Travelers were detained and questioned, while some were denied re-entry into the U.S. The New York Times reported that a detained Iranian family told Masih Fouladi, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), that an agent told them: “This is a bad time to be an Iranian.” 

“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,” Fouladi said in a statement. “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.” 

CBP denies that Iranian Americans were held and questioned at all. 

“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,” said Matt Leas, a spokesperson for CBP. 

CBP instead claims that security has increased at ports of entry overall and that processing times at some ports had increased due to the holiday seasons. According to the New York Times, border officers are not allowed to refer someone to a secondary screening based on their national origin alone, but it is one of many factors. In fact, agents may place extra emphasis on the country of origin if it is one that can pose an alleged national security threat. 

“If you were an Iranian citizen returning from the British Columbia, you would be sent to secondary as a result of the increased tension with that country,” Girl Kerlikowske, former commissioner of CBP, told the paper. “It wouldn’t be the main factor in many cases, but certainly in this particular instance the country of origin would be the determining factor.”

While CBP denied any wrongdoing, immigrants’ rights advocates and attorneys begged to differ. Representative Pramila Jayapal and Representative Adam Smith expressed their concerns about the matter. 

“Let me be clear: Instituting xenophobic, shameful and unconstitutional policies that discriminate against innocent people, trample over basic civil rights, and put fear in the hearts of millions do not make us safer,” Jayapal said in a statement.

Many feel the treatment of Iranians is mimicking the circumstances that eventually led to Japanese internment during World War II. 

The kind of racial targeting evokes the same sense of American racial paranoia that resulted in Japanese internment and rampant Islamophobia following the September 11, 2001 attack of the world trade center. 

“It doesn’t make any sense, because these are individuals who are U.S. citizens and don’t have any individualized suspicion associated with them, other than the fact that they’re Iranian or of Iranian heritage,” Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project’s Seattle office, told Politico. “What’s clear is that they are being targeted for the secondary inspection because of their Iranian background, and there must be some kind of directive” to CBP officers to pull them over, he added.

Attorneys say detained Iranians were questioned about where they traveled in recent years, their work and education history, and were asked if they had family in the Iranian military. Iranian American historian John Ghazvinian was one of the 200 who was taken in for secondary questioning when he landed in JFK. 

“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,” Ghazvinian wrote in a tweet. “I wanted to be like: my book comes out in September, preorder now on amazon.”

This Mother Was Allowed Into The US With Her Daughters But Her Partner And Son Were Forced To Stay In Mexico, Now They’re Suing

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This Mother Was Allowed Into The US With Her Daughters But Her Partner And Son Were Forced To Stay In Mexico, Now They’re Suing

EqualityNow / Instagram

Remember their names: Maudy Constanza  and Hanz Morales. They are two Guatemalans who are suing the United States to keep their family together (they have two daughters who are with Constanza in the United States and one son, aged 9, who was returned to Mexico with Morales).

The recent crackdown on undocumented migrants and refugees under the Trump administration has produced all sorts of stories of broken homes, crushed dreams and near impossible survival. Chief among the many controversial steps that the government has taken in the last two years is the set of policies and transnational deals that have led many undocumented migrants to deportation.

The influx of migrants and asylum seekers into the United States comes from all over the world, and people fleeing dangerous situations in places as far as the Middle East or Africa use the southern border as an entry point into the US. However, the spotlight is usually placed on people of Latin American origin, mainly from Mexico and Central American countries that have long faced sectarian violence, social unrest, gangs and armed conflicts that, oftentimes, can be led back to what some critics claim is United States interventionism. Whatever the case is, the truth is that the American continent is experiencing a humanitarian crisis and governments will need to cooperate to ease human suffering and make asylum seeking processes more bearable. 

Most people whose families have been separated by the United States federal government remain silent in their powerlessness. After all, who would legally fight one of the most powerful countries in the world, right? Well, the answer lies in a Guatemalan couple that is actually suing the federal government in an effort to keep the family together. 

Maudy Constanza is an asylum seeker living in Massachusetts, her partner and son were ordered to remain in Mexico so they are suing.

Credit: Jonathan Wiggs / Boston Globe

The lawsuit claims that Trump’s asylum policy violates constitutional due process and does not guarantee equal rights. The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts in federal court in Boston last week.

The suit reads: “United States law protects asylum seekers like Ms. Constanza, Mr. Morales, and their children. The law forbids sending people to countries where they will be persecuted or tortured, and provides migrants with an opportunity to see an immigration judge before they may be sent to a place where they fear such persecution or torture.”

We have to remember that Guatemala lives unprecedented levels of violence and that the increasing flow of Central American migrants to Mexico has made them vulnerable as many individuals in the host country have perpetrated acts of violence and racism. 

Hanz Morales, Constanza’s partner, was shot four times in his home country of Guatemala, where criminality indexes are surging.

Guatemala is definitely not a safe place for Hanz Morales, and he fears for his life. The couple fled to Mexico with their three young children. They separated before crossing the United States border in July 2019. The Boston Globe details the ordeal that they escaped: “Hanz was a successful small business owner in a town 100 miles or so outside Guatemala City. Last year he witnessed a violent crime, during which he was shot. The family spent a year in hiding trying to evade the individuals who shot him, until they decided to move to the United States and seek asylum.” The rule of law not always holds true in Guatemala and other Latin American countries, so it was flee or die for the family. 

Constanza and her two daughters were allowed to stay in the United States, Morales and their 9-year-old son were sent back to Mexico, where unofficial refugee camps are dangerous and unsanitary.

Credit: Eric Gay / Getty

Morales and his son are among the approximately 50,000 individuals from Spanish-speaking countries that have been sent to Mexico to wait out their migration court process. This puts them in an extremely vulnerable situation and an economy of corrupt officials and lawyers, who take advantage of them, has sprouted in cities such as Reynosa and Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas.

As Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, told The Boston Globe: “In Matamoros, we now have what’s been called the worst refugee camp in the world.”

As the Associated Press reports, Morales and his son have experienced a hell on Earth while waiting in Mexico: “Morales and his son have survived an attempted kidnapping, struggled to find food and rarely leave their home because of the violent and dangerous conditions near the border, according to the ACLU. The organization wants a federal judge to declare the asylum policy unlawful and allow Morales and his son to await the outcome of their case in the U.S. with the rest of their family.” The ACLU has started similar processes in the Californian cities of San Diego and San Francisco. 

A Venezuelan Man Won Legal Protection From Deportation But ICE Still Deported Him To Mexico

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A Venezuelan Man Won Legal Protection From Deportation But ICE Still Deported Him To Mexico

Department of Homeland Security / ICE

Jesus spent three months awaiting his immigration case in Mexico thanks to the Migrant Protections Protocol (MPP) policy. “Remain in Mexico” is a fate that has left many migrants targets of cartel violence, but Jesus was a fortunate exception. After fleeing from Venezuela, then waiting in Mexico, he was able to win his court case without a lawyer and without being fluent in English. 

The judge granted him withholding of removal which would normally protect a migrant from deportation. Jesus seemed to have scored a win or at least that was how it seemed. Soon after, he was taken back to Mexico with no explanation as to what was happening. 

NPR featured Jesus’ story which proved to be a cascade of unanswered questions left by Customs and Border Protection — albeit with a hopeful ending. 

Jesus and immigration lawyers are now scrambling to figure out what is going on.

When Jesus became one of 55,000 migrants forced to await a court date in Mexico for the second time, things began to seem vexingly suspicious. Kennji Kizuka, a lawyer with Human Rights First, took on Jesus’ case after his win in court. 

“The proceedings in immigration court were finished. There were no more hearings to be held,” said Kizuka.

Kizuka told NPR that immigration officials put a false court date on Jesus’ paperwork, however, the date did not appear on any court docket. The court date is significant because migrants can only return to Mexico if they have a pending court appointment. 

“They put a fake date on a piece of paper that says you have an upcoming hearing. And there was no hearing,” Kizuka said. “They wanted to return him to Mexico again, and they needed to convince the Mexican officials to take him back.” 

CBP appears to be sending mixed signals to migrants. 

A spokesperson from CBP told NPR that they do not use fake court dates and said the date was legitimate. CBP also says that migrants who are granted a withholding of removal protection can still be deported if authorities are considering appealing the judge’s ruling. NPR found 17 instances where migrants who were granted the same protections were deported. 

“When an immigration judge’s decision is appealed or under consideration for appeal, immigration proceedings remain underway,” a CBP spokesman said.

However, Kizuka believes the documents that CBP gave to Jesus contained numerous false statements asserting that he had pending court dates when he does not. The government did not choose to appeal’s Jesus’ case either. To make matters more confusing. Acting Commissioner of CBP Mark Morgan says migrants who have won their cases should be able to stay in the U.S. 

“I don’t think that should be happening,” Morgan told NPR with regard to Jesus’ case. “If that’s happened the way you described that, then that’s an anomaly. It’s a mistake. But we’ll take a look at that.”

Jesus scores a second win — but it won’t help other migrants necessarily. 

Kizuka met Jesus in-person to help get him back into the United States using the judge’s court order. They were met with resistance. 

“They told us that Jesus was not going to be allowed into the United States,” Kizuka said. “One officer told me that by going back to Mexico, his deportation had already been carried out.”

Kizuka did not give up. He argued at the border for four hours. He had other staff members call the Department of Homeland Security. He had them call members of Congress. He contacted anyone who could help. Finally, they gave in with no explanation. 

Jesus is now living in Florida with his sister and mother. The three of them are fighting to receive asylum and become citizens. However, Jesus’ story highlights how much luck is necessary for any migrant to get the system to work properly for them even if they act lawfully throughout the process. 

In Venezuela, Jesus was a police officer but when government officials asked him to arrest members of the opposition party for crimes they did not commit, he refused. His family became targets of violence, resulting in the murder of his father. 

“They started to persecute me and my family,” he said. “They killed my father. My mother was followed. She was threatened with a pistol and beatings.”

When he was held in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico he narrowly escaped kidnappings and violence, much of which he witnessed himself. Jesus is content in Florida but he did not feel he was treated with dignity on his way to getting there. 

“I hoped the treatment would be warmer, more humane,” Jesus said. “But the officials are really harsh and insulting to migrants. And the system is really complicated.”