Deportation battle exposes fuzzy border line
Iranian student’s case becomes flashpoint over immigration policy
GRANTED IT SITS right on the edge of Boston Harbor on the country’s eastern shore. But it has never seemed particularly in question that East Boston is part of the United States.
But when it comes to various holding rooms and areas of Logan Airport that lie between the airport tarmac and the doorways out of border patrol and customs services, whether people there who have arrived on international flights are, in fact, in the United States is evidently not at all clear.
That’s just one of the curious takeaways from the controversy set in motion earlier this week when immigration officials detained an Iranian student who arrived in Boston to attend Northeastern University and put him on a flight back out of the country, deporting him before he ever left the airport.
Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi arrived at Logan on Sunday from Iran with a valid student visa after spending time with his family and renewing his visa to attend Northeastern. But US Customs and Border Protection officials detained him for questioning.
Both of the state’s US senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, as well Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Joe Kennedy are demanding answers from immigration officials about Abadi’s removal as well as action taken against other Iranian students with valid visas.
Three attorneys representing Abadi, Susan Church, Kerry Doyle, and Heather Yountz, penned an op-ed in today’s Globe decrying federal immigration officials’ moves to deport their client despite a court order.
“Defying a federal judge is a serious breach, foreshadowing a potential constitutional crisis,” wrote the lawyers. “Rule of law depends on the judiciary’s ability to issue a decision and to expect it to be honored by the other branches of government. As immigration lawyers, we meet people from countries where the rule of law does not exist. None of us wants to live in such a country.”
Abadi’s lawyers say they’ve only been given vague justification for the action, saying they were told there were general concerns that he might overstay his visa. The Globe says an immigration official, speaking anonymously, pointed to ties between Abadi’s family and a company that has been sanctioned by the US for alleged ties to Hezbollah and said Abidi himself has connections to a group called Islamic Pulse, “known for its social media presence and anti-American rhetoric.”
Church, one of Abadi’s lawyers, called all the allegations “absolutely false.”
While immigration lawyers expressed outrage over the border agents’ apparent disregard for a federal judge’s order, the court’s jurisdiction over the issue seems murky.
“If you’re physically inside the country, such as at an airport . . . that is considered not in the United States” until you have cleared customs, Suffolk Law School professor Ragini Shah told the Globe.
Abadi’s lawyers are calling for congressional hearings on Customs and Border Patrol policies and practices, writing that the agency “needs oversight and reform, and it must face consequences for its misbehavior.”