Following reports of U.S. Customs and Border Protection detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing them entry into the United States, the agency issued a statement denying the allegations and explaining procedures with agents observing what they referred to as “enhanced posture.”
Social media posts that customs is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false, a spokesman with Customs and Border Protection Laredo Field Office said.
Reports that the Department of Homeland Security/Customs and Border Protection has issued a related directive are also false, he said.
National media reported over the weekend that dozens of Iranians and Iranian-Americans were held for hours at Washington State’s border with Canada, as the Department of Homeland Security ramped up security after Iran threatened to retaliate against the U.S. for the strike that killed its top military leader.
More than 60 travelers were trying to come home to the United States on Saturday when agents at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Wash., held them for additional questioning about their political views and allegiances, The New York Times reported citing advocacy groups and accounts from travelers.
Most of the travelers were released after the extra scrutiny, according to administration officials, although advocates said some were denied entry into the United States, the news outlet reported.
Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds military force and one of the most powerful figures in the Islamic Republic, was killed early Friday in an airstrike in Baghdad.
Based on the current threat environment, customs 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, the Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said.
“CBP routinely adjusts staffing and operations to maintain the dual missions of border security and facilitation of lawful trade and travel. Processing times are the result of the current circumstances, including staffing levels, volume of traffic, and threat posture,” he said.
At the Blaine port of entry wait times increased 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, he said.
Wait times Sunday morning were about 40 minutes for passenger vehicles.
The spokesperson said Customs and Border Protection does not discriminate based on religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.