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PAAIA Distressed by Reports of CBP Discrimination Based on National Origin

Shannon Kuehn
(202) 828-8370

Washington, DC – Following reports that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued an internal memo for CBP officers to target Iranian nationals or individuals who have traveled to Iran for specialized vetting, Leila Austin, executive director of the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), offered this statement on behalf of PAAIA:

We are incredibly disappointed by recent news of a CBP directive to target Iranian Americans on the basis of their national origin, ethnicity or faith. The leaked internal memo validates our concern that the escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran is causing unwarranted discrimination of the Iranian American community. The recent Peace Arch Border detention of hundreds of Iranian Americans by CBP is a clear example of the discrimination that 71 percent of the Iranian American community fears and 63 percent have experienced. Iranian Americans are first and foremost Americans and deserve to be treated as such regardless of any conflict between the U.S. and Iran. I am thankful for the outpouring of congressional support we have seen in the wake of the Peace Arch Border situation and I am now calling on members of Congress to formally investigate this CBP directive before this unjust discrimination goes any further.”

Earlier this month, PAAIA initiated a coalition effort to gather information and assist those who were held by CBP at the Peace Arch Border, though CBP has dismissed the claim that the agency had issued any directive. These individuals were mostly U.S. citizens, many of whom were returning after a day trip for a pop concert. After being racially targeted and detained for extended periods of time (some for over 10 hours) the individuals were subjected to invasive questioning about their family and employment histories, their parents’ mandatory military service in Iran, their allegiance to the U.S. or Iran, and their faith.

PAAIA has been working with members of Congress to uncover more information about the matter, as well as to ensure this discriminatory event is not repeated. PAAIA thanks the members of Congress who have already spoken out and inquired about the issue and encourages the other members of Congress to follow their lead.

You can help PAAIA protect the Iranian American community by reaching out to your representatives here.

About PAAIA: The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nonsectarian organization that serves the interests of Iranian Americans and represents the community before U.S. policymakers and the American public at large.

January 30, 2020


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