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Dozens of Iranian-Americans reportedly stopped and questioned for hours at Washington-Canada border

The Council on American-Islamic Relations—Washington (CAIR-WA) said more than 60 Iranian-Americans and Iranians were detained and questioned Saturday while trying to cross into Washington state from Canada at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine.

CAIR said people reported having their passports taken by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and questioned about political views and allegiances, some or nearly 12 hours. The advocacy group said it was assisting the families but did not believe anyone stopped Saturday was still being questioned Sunday night.

“They were given an orange card and told that they had to get out of the cars; their keys were taken from them and they were put in this waiting area,” said CAIR-WA Executive Director Masih Fouladi in an interview with KIRO 7. “Many of these people were U.S. citizens and the questions they were being asked were essentially loyalty questions or whether they were loyal to the American government and their involvement with the Iranian government.”

Fouladi said many of the people reported being in Canada for vacation and to attend a concert. “Many more” were not allowed to cross the border at all Saturday night, according to CAIR-WA.

In a statement to KIRO 7, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Mike Friel denied that Iranian-Americans were detained: “Social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false. Reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are also false.”

“The statement form CBP is very vague and they might not think that they’re detaining people because they’re Iranian, just like they said they weren’t detaining people during the Muslim ban, but we all know that that happened,” said Fouladi. “This is just a tried and true method for them to deny, deny, deny.”

Governor Jay Inslee tweeted Sunday, “My office is closely tracking reports that Iranian Americans, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, have been detained at the WA-Canada border.”

“@DHSgov has informed my office they did not issue an order to detain or refuse entry to Iranian Americans,” Inslee tweeted. “However, we are continuing to seek answers from federal officials and talk to those caught at the border.”