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 JayapalExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate Democrats press OSHA official on issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard MORE (D-Wash.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee to hold hearing on police brutality next week House Judiciary to hear whistleblowers on 'politicization' of Justice Dept under Trump House Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality MORE (D-N.Y.), Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship Chair Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (D-Calif.), Homeland Security Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHouse committee chair requests immediate briefing on Secret Service's involvement in clearing protesters House Homeland Security Committee asks for more information about extremist involvement in protests States plead for cybersecurity funds as hacking threat surges MORE (D-Miss.), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyFired State Department watchdog says Pompeo aide attempted to 'bully' him over investigations Ousted watchdog says he told top State aides about Pompeo probe Overnight Health Care: White House shifts focus from coronavirus | House Democrats seek information on coronavirus vaccine contracts | Governors detail frustrations with Trump over COVID-19 supplies MORE (D-N.Y.), and Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security Chairwoman Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceHillicon Valley: Tech giants poised to weather coronavirus damage | Record Facebook-FTC deal approved | Bipartisan 5G bill introduced New York lawmakers move to combat security, disinformation threats to mail-in voting NY, NJ lawmakers call for more aid to help fight coronavirus 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.