House Dems demand answers regarding holding of Iranian-Americans at border

House Dems demand answers regarding holding of Iranian-Americans at border
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House Democrats sent a letter to the Trump administration Tuesday demanding answers over reports that up to 200 Iranian-Americans were sent for secondary screening and held for up to 12 hours at the Canadian border over the weekend. 

The letter sent to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which was signed by six House Democrats who chair relevant committees or subcommittees, was intended to “express our alarm” over media reports about the detentions at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Wash.

“Many impacted individuals were U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, including seniors and children,” the letter reads.

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The lawmakers added that CBP’s explanations “do not explain why impacted persons were overwhelmingly of Iranian heritage, nor why pre-cleared U.S. citizen travelers would have been placed in secondary inspection and delayed for five hours.” 

The six Democrats requested a briefing on the matter by Jan. 21 and requested documents regarding any directives or instructions regarding the screening of individuals of Iranian heritage, among other things.

The letter was signed by Vice Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility MORE (D-Wash.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerDemocrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court Schumer: 'Nothing is off the table' if GOP moves forward with Ginsburg replacement Top Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence MORE (D-N.Y.), Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship Chair Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenBusiness groups start gaming out a Biden administration Top Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility MORE (D-Calif.), Homeland Security Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonUnderwood takes over as chair of House cybersecurity panel House panel pans ICE detention medical care, oversight Senate to hold nomination hearing for Wolf next week MORE (D-Miss.), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyPelosi, Democrats unveil bills to rein in alleged White House abuses of power Government watchdog recommends creation of White House cyber director position Top Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence MORE (D-N.Y.), and Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security Chairwoman Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceHillicon Valley: Simulated cyberattack success | New bill for election security funding | Amazon could be liable for defective products Lawmakers introduce bill to help election officials address cyber vulnerabilities House lawmakers to launch probe into DHS excluding NY from Trusted Traveler Program MORE (D-N.Y.).

CBP pointed The Hill to past statements dismissing claims that Iranian-Americans specifically were targeted. The agency also noted that border crossings have generally been subjected to bolstered security measures in response to the increased threat environment surrounding rising tensions with Tehran. Officials noted that longer wait times were an unintended consequence for some travelers. 

The reported screening and detention of Iranian-Americans comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran following a U.S. strike last week that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a powerful Iranian military figure who led the country's elite Quds Force.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “harsh retaliation” over the killing of Soleimani, who was known to be a close associate of the Iranian leader and directed Tehran’s international network of proxy forces.

The Pentagon confirmed Tuesday that Iran launched over a dozen missiles against two Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces.