Jan 7, 2020

Inslee calls reports of U.S.-Iranian citizens being held at border alarming

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on Monday called reports that dozens of Canadian and American citizens faced hours of questioning at the U.S.-Canada border because of their Iranian heritage over the weekend "deeply alarming." Customs and Border Protection denies the allegations.

Driving the news: Civil rights group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it's been "assisting more than 60 Iranians and Iranian-Americans of all ages who were detained at length and questioned at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Wash."

The allegations: "Those detained reported that their passports were confiscated and they were questioned about their political views and allegiances," CAIR said in a statement Sunday.

  • Sam Sadr, an Iranian-Canadian who traveled to the U.S. using his Canadian passport, told CTV Monday he saw "dozens of other Iranians held, including children" while he was stopped by agents at a U.S. border crossing in British Colombia for eight hours.
  • At a CAIR Washington news conference Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said there was a clear link to the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani last Friday and President Trump's subsequent action on Iran and the border delays.
"Clearly, many people were being processed through and the only people that seemed to be held aside and detained in some form or fashion were people of Iranian heritage."

What they're saying: Customs and Border Protection says it does not discriminate against anyone's religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. It said in a statement Sunday, "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."

  • Wait times at Blaine increased to an average of two hours on Saturday evening, though this was higher for some travelers, up to four hours, because of increased volume and reduced staff during the holiday season, according to CBP.
  • A CBP spokesman told Axios Monday there's a difference between a secondary inspection and detention. "It is possible that Canadian Iranians underwent secondary inspections," he said.

The big picture: CBP says it has stepped up procedures at its ports of entry for security based on the current threat environment.

Go deeper: "Axios on HBO" sits down with top CBP official

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Agents uncover longest smuggling tunnel ever found at southern border

Photo: Customs and Border Protection

Federal agents have found the "longest illicit cross-border tunnel ever discovered along the Southwest border," Customs and Border Protection announced Wednesday.

Details: The drug-smuggling tunnel stretches for 4,309 feet to connect an industrial site in Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego, per a CBP statement. "It includes an extensive rail/cart system, forced air ventilation, high voltage electrical cables and panels, an elevator at the tunnel entrance, and a complex drainage system," the statement notes.

Go deeperArrowJan 30, 2020

Trump doesn't need a border wall

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump has successfully built an immigration wall that has proven impenetrable for tens of thousands of migrants — it's just not the physical one he and others obsess about.

What's happening: The number of attempted border crossings is falling, and denial rates are climbing. The very nations most migrants flee from are now the nations where asylum seekers are being sent.

Iran says it mistakenly shot down Ukrainian passenger plane

Search and rescue workers at the site after a Boeing 737 plane belonging to a Ukrainian airline that crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran just after takeoff. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iran announced in a statement on Saturday (local time) that its military mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet that crashed on Wednesday, killing all passengers aboard, according to multiple reports.

What they're saying, per the Iranian military's statement: The Boeing 737 jetliner operated by Ukrainian International Airlines “took the flying posture and altitude of an enemy target” as it came close to an Iranian military base, and “under these circumstances, because of human error,” the plane “came under fire,” the New York Times writes.

Go deeperArrowJan 11, 2020