After the death of Iran’s powerful commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who was killed in an attack ordered by President Trump, Customs and Border Protection officers at American borders stepped up vetting of travelers of Iranian descent, including American citizens and legal permanent residents, who have a constitutional right to enter the United States. Two days after the attack, hundreds of Iranians and Iranian-Americans travelers were held for hours at a port of entry in Blaine, Washington, where many said they were subjected to questioning about their religious and political beliefs.
Customs and Border Protection officials denied afterward that a national directive had been issued to detain or deny entry to travelers based solely on their connections to Iran. Reporters at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation later reported that they had obtained documents stating that a directive had, in fact, been issued.
A Homeland Security Department official confirmed the authenticity of the document, adding that the directive was limited to the field office in Blaine, Washington. It stated that Iranians as well as “any other nationality that has traveled to Iran or Lebanon” should be subjected to increased vetting.
A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection declined to comment on the document but said the situation was under investigation, and that, “at no time did D.H.S./C.B.P. issue a directive to deny entry to any individual.” The spokesman did not say whether Iranians were being subjected to increased vetting as a matter of policy.
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, said the House Homeland Security Committee was not consulted on the ban, and she questioned the administration’s claims that the countries facing restrictions presented security concerns.
“There’s no doubt that there’s terrorist elements roaming throughout various countries, but there’s bad actors in Russia, bad actors in China. None of those places have been put on any ban,” Ms. Jackson Lee said.
Doug Rand, who worked on immigration policy in the Obama White House and helped found Boundless Immigration, a technology company that helps immigrants obtain green cards, said the additions to the ban would not just affect foreigners but also American citizens.