2 Iranian students file complaint after mistreatment, denial of entry into U.S.

February 4, 2020 - 18:31

TEHRAN — Two Iranian college students have filed civil rights complaints with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over mistreatment and denial of entry into the United States by federal officials at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

According to Time magazine, Shahab Dehghani, who attends Northeastern University, and Reihana Emami Arandi, who had been set to start classes at Harvard University, have filed separate complaints with the agency’s civil rights office.

They have asked the agency to investigate the conduct of Customs and Border Protection officials.

According to the students, federal officials detained and interrogated them for hours at the airport before concluding incorrectly that they planned on staying in the country longer than their temporary visas allowed.

“I couldn’t and still cannot believe how I was treated and why I received such behavior,” Arandi said in her complaint. 

“I have never had any interest in or intention to stay in the U.S. for the long term. In fact, Harvard is the only school in the U.S. I even applied to. It doesn’t make sense for anybody intending to immigrate permanently to rest their hopes on one highly competitive program at Harvard.”

According to reports, dozens of Iranians have been denied entry into the U.S. since August.

The reports come as tensions run high between the U.S. and Iran, especially after the U.S. assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror General Qassem Soleimani.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said its inspections take additional factors into account and can uncover details that didn’t come up in previous visa screenings.

There’s no guarantee, the agency said, that someone with a visa will be allowed to enter the United States. And every day, hundreds of people are denied entry at U.S. ports.

During his interrogation, Dehghani was prevented from communicating with his attorneys and was subjected to a “threatening and uncivil interrogation” that focused on his religious and political beliefs.

Federal officials purposely ignored an emergency court order temporarily staying his removal until the case could be heard in court and forced him to board a flight bound for Paris, Dehghani’s lawyers argue.

“This entire situation is unacceptable and was handled in an utterly unprofessional manner,” the complaint concludes. 

“This behavior by members of Customs and Border Protection cannot stand.”

Arandi said she was detained at Logan Airport on Sept. 18 and questioned for nearly eight hours about her work, family, travel and opinions about recent events in the Middle East.

She said officers also searched and confiscated her luggage, laptop, and cellphone and did not allow her to make any calls, including to officials at Harvard.

Arandi said she also didn’t understand the legal implications of declining to sign a statement given to her by officials, which has now resulted in her being banned from entering the U.S. for five years.