Peace Arch crossing. (File photo)

Whistleblower says Iranian-Americans questioned at Peace Arch crossing were targeted

Immigration lawyer says response from Customs Border Protection is a ‘total cover up’

An email from a U.S. Customs Border Protection whistleblower says agents were under a directive to detain and question people of Iranian ethnicity at the Peace Arch crossing earlier this month.

On Jan. 4, at least 60 people of Iranian background were reportedly detained at Peace Arch border for up to 16 hours while heading back to the U.S. from a concert in Vancouver. The detention came shortly after the Iranian government pledged retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

In the email obtained by Black Press Media the whistleblower – who said he or she personally interrogated a number of U.S. citizens with Iranian background at the border that weekend – said the “sole reason” that travellers were detained and questioned was due to their national origin.

RELATED: ‘They were targeting us’: Iranian-Canadian held at U.S. border

In a statement to Black Press issued Jan. 6, CBP said that it “does not discriminate based on religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”

The statement also said reports that CBP or the Department of Homeland Security issued a directive related to detaining and questioning Iranian-Americans was false.

As soon as the detentions made national news, the operation was suspended, the whistleblower wrote.

“It’s a total cover up,” immigration lawyer Len Saunders said Sunday.

RELATED: 60+ people of Iranian background detained for up to 16 hours at Peace Arch crossing: Muslim group

Saunders was the first to receive the whistleblower email. He said he confirmed the identity of the writer as a CBP employee before forwarding it. The whistleblower’s name was not given to Black Press.

Saunders visited the Peace Arch border in the midst of the mass-detainment on unrelated business on Jan. 4. He said he saw 75 “Persian-looking people” patiently waiting.

“I asked one of the officers, I’m like, ‘what’s going on here?… And he goes, ‘every single Iranian born applicant is being sent inside for (extra) vetting.”

Contacted Monday, CBP wrote in an email that they “don’t have anything to add” to their previous statement.

“Now you have a whistleblower who basically gives a detailed account of what happened and for them to still deny it, I’m shocked,” Saunders said. “I’m shocked at the unethical behaviour of the U.S. government, and what’s preventing (it) from happening again?”



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

Visit us at Twitter

IranUnited States

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Conflict expert explains how to talk to people who aren’t social distancing

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

COVID-19: Managing your mental health from isolation

Ministry of Mental Health, Addictions recommends numerous strategies for self-care during pandemic

Saanich moves forward with summer camp registration despite COVID-19

District to give full refunds if camps are cancelled

Sunday morning fire damages Victoria gas station

The fire on Fairfield Road caused $75,000 in estimated damages to tires and automotive equipment

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Researchers look at humidity as a weapon in the fight against airborne viruses

Regular hand washing, physical distancing and PPE for health care workers remains best line of defense

Most Read