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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 JayapalProgressives fume over Senate setbacks House Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' MORE (D-Wash.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary split on how to address domestic extremism George Floyd police reform bill reintroduced in House Nadler presses DOJ to prosecute all involved in Capitol riot MORE (D-N.Y.), Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship Chair Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenCurator estimates Capitol art damage from mob totals K Architect of the Capitol considering display on Jan. 6 riot Lawmakers say they are 'targets,' ask to boost security MORE (D-Calif.), Homeland Security Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonLawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation NAACP president accuses Trump of having operated under 'white supremacist doctrine' Lawmakers blame SolarWinds hack on 'collective failure' to prioritize cybersecurity MORE (D-Miss.), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyLawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation DeJoy apologizes for mail delays while defending Postal Service changes House panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps MORE (D-N.Y.), and Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security Chairwoman Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceTensions running high after gun incident near House floor Trust between lawmakers reaches all-time low after Capitol riots Trump's Georgia call triggers debate on criminal penalties 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.