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

Castlegar march ensures missing, murdered aboriginal women not forgotten

About 60 people took part in the Valentine’s day memorial

PLACE NAMES: West Kootenay(s)

To some locals, “West Kootenays” (as opposed to West Kootenay) is like nails on a chalkboard

Midway mill shutdown expected to last 8 to 10 weeks

Vaagen Fibre Canada cites low inventory, road restrictions as reason for shut down

First presumptive case of coronavirus identified in the Interior Health region

The woman, in her 30s, travelled from Shanghai and lives in the interior

VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard wins first Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award

Leonard scored 30 points and hit eight 3-pointers to lead Team LeBron to a 157-155 victory

Amtrak warns of delays as railways from Seattle to B.C. blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

B.C. man released from quarantined cruise ship in Japan

Because Spencer Fehrenbacher has American citzensip, he was evacuated by the U.S.

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

Most Read