Alireza Yazdani, 27, was on a flight leaving Detroit on Monday, a day after he was detained and questioned by authorities, his attorney Bradley Maze said.
Immigrant rights advocates have said they’re concerned students are being targeted as tensions mount between the United States and Iran. The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said last week that at least 10 students had been sent back to Iran upon arriving to US airports since August, with seven of them having flown into the Boston airport.
Yazdani flew into Detroit Sunday, eager to continue his studies in an agricultural sciences doctoral program at Michigan State, Maze said. He was admitted to the program in September, Maze said, and the US government issued him a student visa earlier this month.
In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said Yazdani was deemed inadmissible after applying for entry into the United States on Sunday, but did not specify why.
“On January 26, Alireza Yazdani Esfidajani applied for entry into the United States, and was later deemed inadmissible at which time he withdrew his application for admission into the United States,” CBP said. “The traveler was not arrested, rather held until a return flight could be arranged to his place of departure.”
Yazdani told his attorneys he “eventually gave up” after facing more than six hours of questioning. Maze described CBP’s reasons for denying his client’s entry as “spurious,” but said the aggressive questioning left Yazdani feeling he had no choice.
A spokeswoman for Michigan State said Monday evening that the university had been working for the past 24 hours with federal agencies, members of the Michigan congressional delegation and the student’s lawyer “to help through this difficult situation.”
“We want international students to know we value and welcome them to our campus, and we are committed to global engagement, educating international students and collaborating with partners across the world in higher education efforts. MSU’s international students make tremendous contributions to fueling discoveries and scholarship,” spokeswoman Emily Gerkin Guerrant said in a statement. “Global leadership can only be maintained if talented people from across the globe are encouraged to come here to study and work.”
Every day about 790 travelers are refused entry to the United States out of more than 1 million travelers processed at ports of entry, CBP said. Being issued a visa doesn’t guarantee entry into the United States, the agency said.
“Applicants must demonstrate they are admissible into the US by overcoming all grounds of inadmissibility including health-related grounds, criminality, security reasons, public charge, labor certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements and miscellaneous grounds,” CBP said.
CNN’s Geneva Sands contributed to this report.