Monday January 13th, 2020: Statement on the Detainment of Iranians and Iranian Americans at the Washington-Canada Border

Over the weekend of January 4th, over 60 Iranians and Iranian Americans were detained at Washington State’s border with Canada and subjected to questions about their political views and allegiances, for up to 10 hours. Some were eventually refused entry. As an organization, APAMSA stands with our Iranian siblings and reaffirms our commitment to immigrant rights. The rights of all Americans and immigrants should be respected regardless of Iranian origin or descent.

From Japanese American internment during World War II to hundreds of hate crimes against South Asians/SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) folks after 9/11, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are all too familiar with the othering, scapegoating, and violence that befalls our communities in times of international conflict. No matter who we are or how long our families have been in this country, we have been accused of being foreign, spies, or terrorists. Such accusations are ironic in that 1) they have never been effective for protecting national security - and indeed, are predicated more on racism than safety; 2) from farms to railroads, America was built with the support of our ancestors; and 3) although many of our families migrated here to seek better lives, many were also forced to do so by American interference in our countries of origin.

This is not the first time that immigration officials under the Trump administration have violated due process rights, and these recent actions further reinforce our understanding that despite the 14th Amendment, our citizenship does not protect us and any one of us could be targeted next. In this time of crisis, we encourage chapter leaders to support members who are personally impacted by the current environment, and all APAMSA members to familiarize themselves with the rights of themselves and their patients.

From the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) community advisory:

If you are visited by federal law enforcement agents, remember:

  • You have the legal right to have a lawyer present when speaking with federal law enforcement agencies. This is true even if you are not a citizen or have been arrested or detained… Refusing to answer questions cannot be held against you and does not imply that you have something to hide. Answering a question incorrectly can hurt you more than not answering at all. An attorney is best able to protect your rights.

  • You do not have to permit any law enforcement officer to enter your home or office if they do not have a warrant… If they say they have a warrant, politely ask to see it before allowing them to enter. If they have a warrant, be courteous and polite, but remember that you are under no obligation to answer questions without a lawyer present. You should tell the agents that you do not consent to the search so that they cannot go beyond what the warrant authorizes.

  • You should never lie or provide false information to any law enforcement agency. Lying to law enforcement agents under any circumstance is a federal crime.

While traveling, remember:

  • TSA/CBP cannot target you for additional screening or questions based on religious, racial, or ethnic profiling.

  • US citizens cannot be denied entry for refusing to answer questions. Green card holders cannot be refused entry, unless their travel was not brief and innocent per USC 1101(a)(14). However, invoking your rights may result in delays.

  • Non-citizen visa holders can be denied entry into the country for refusing to cooperate. If you have concerns, please speak to an attorney.

More legal resources can be found in CAIR’s “Know Your Rights” Guides (available in Arabic, Bengali, Bosnian, Farsi, Somali, and Urdu) and the Iranian American Bar Association’s Community Advisory.

APAMSA condemns the illegal detention of United States citizens, the ongoing threats against immigrant families, and the escalating xenophobia and racism that impacts the health and wellbeing of our communities.

In solidarity,

Your APAMSA National Board