Peace Arch crossing. (File photo)

Peace Arch crossing. (File photo)

Whistleblower says Iranian-Americans questioned at Peace Arch crossing were targeted

Immigration lawyer says response from Customs Border Protection is a ‘total cover up’

An email from a U.S. Customs Border Protection whistleblower says agents were under a directive to detain and question people of Iranian ethnicity at the Peace Arch crossing earlier this month.

On Jan. 4, at least 60 people of Iranian background were reportedly detained at Peace Arch border for up to 16 hours while heading back to the U.S. from a concert in Vancouver. The detention came shortly after the Iranian government pledged retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

In the email obtained by Black Press Media the whistleblower – who said he or she personally interrogated a number of U.S. citizens with Iranian background at the border that weekend – said the “sole reason” that travellers were detained and questioned was due to their national origin.

RELATED: ‘They were targeting us’: Iranian-Canadian held at U.S. border

In a statement to Black Press issued Jan. 6, CBP said that it “does not discriminate based on religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”

The statement also said reports that CBP or the Department of Homeland Security issued a directive related to detaining and questioning Iranian-Americans was false.

As soon as the detentions made national news, the operation was suspended, the whistleblower wrote.

“It’s a total cover up,” immigration lawyer Len Saunders said Sunday.

RELATED: 60+ people of Iranian background detained for up to 16 hours at Peace Arch crossing: Muslim group

Saunders was the first to receive the whistleblower email. He said he confirmed the identity of the writer as a CBP employee before forwarding it. The whistleblower’s name was not given to Black Press.

Saunders visited the Peace Arch border in the midst of the mass-detainment on unrelated business on Jan. 4. He said he saw 75 “Persian-looking people” patiently waiting.

“I asked one of the officers, I’m like, ‘what’s going on here?… And he goes, ‘every single Iranian born applicant is being sent inside for (extra) vetting.”

Contacted Monday, CBP wrote in an email that they “don’t have anything to add” to their previous statement.

“Now you have a whistleblower who basically gives a detailed account of what happened and for them to still deny it, I’m shocked,” Saunders said. “I’m shocked at the unethical behaviour of the U.S. government, and what’s preventing (it) from happening again?”



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

Visit us at Twitter

IranUnited States

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Vacciniation is underway in Golden as of Friday, Jan. 15. (Federico Gambarini/dpa via AP)
Vaccination underway in Golden

Long-term care residents and staff have been prioritized, April is the goal for public vaccination

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

The BC CDC data for Jan. 3-9. (BC CDC Photo)
Golden adds 7 cases in first week of 2021; BC CDC

The numbers are down from 14 the week before

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

(Stock photo)
EDITORIAL: COVID-19 restrictions continue to affect us all

Canada has recorded more than 700,000 confirmed cases of pandemic

A couple living at the Summerland Waterfront Resort is trying to sell their unit because of strata changes which will require them to pay significantly higher strata fees or have their unit included in the resort’s rental pool (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Couple living at Summerland resort facing increases

Permanent residents of Summerland Waterfront Resort told fees will more than double

(Big White Ski Resort)
28 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

More than 200 cases have been identified since the cluster was announced

Police are seeking further witnesses after an elderly woman who was struck by a vehicle in Salmon Arm succumbed to her injuries. (File Photo)
Salmon Arm pedestrian dies after being hit by truck along Highway 1

Collision took place on Jan. 15 in downtown Salmon Arm, police looking for witnesses

A cow moose wanders around the Silver Star Elementary School neighbourhood Tuesday, Jan. 19. (Contributed)
Moose chases two people near North Okanagan school

Conservation and dog control attending to the situation

The sale of the Kirschner Mountain Development for $22M marks the largest in Realtor history, in the Okanagan. (Contributed)
Kelowna mountain development sold for $22M

The sale of the 640-acre Kirschner Mountain development has made the history books

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

Most Read