Iranian-American held at US border crossing

National & World

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., left, looks on as Negah Hekmati speaks about her hours-long delay returning to the U.S. from Canada with her family days earlier, at a news conference Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, in Seattle. Civil rights groups and lawmakers were demanding information from federal officials following reports that dozens of Iranian-Americans were held up and questioned at the border as they returned to the United States from Canada over the weekend. In a statement Sunday, the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said more than 60 Iranians and Iranian-Americans were detained and questioned at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Washington. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE, Wash ( CNN/WEHT/AP)- A Iranian-American Negah Hekmati was stopped at the US-Canada border crossing in Washington State. US officials held the woman for 5 hours over the weekend.

Hekmati said she was asked intrusive questions, They questioned her about her parents, her education and her Facebook and email accounts, she said, and asked her husband about the military service he was required to perform in Iran as a young such as her parents names and birth dates.

Another family they were traveling with was similarly detained, and they said they saw about two dozen other families — all of Iranian descent — in the same waiting area, Hekmati said. Only one white family passed through the area while they were there, she said, and that family was allowed to leave within minutes.

Michael Friel, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said reports that Iranian-Americans were detained or refused entry because of where they were born were not true.

“’Based on the current threat environment, CBP is operating with an enhanced posture at its ports of entry to safeguard our national security and protect the America people while simultaneously protecting the civil rights and liberties of everyone,” Friel said in a statement.

He said border wait times increased to an average of two hours Saturday evening at Blaine, Washington, because of increased traffic and reduced staffing because of the holiday season.

Jayapal and others rejected the assertion that low staffing levels had anything to do with the singling out of Iranian or Iranian-American families. She suggested the Department of Homeland Security, which includes Customs and Border Protection, was lying

Her hold up has sparked outrage among immigrant advocates.

Lawyers are concerned that there will be a targeting of Iranians entering the U.S.

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(This story was originally published on January 6, 2020)

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