Lawmakers seek answers on deported Iranian student
Kennedy raises issue of racial, ethnic profiling
SEVERAL MEMBERS of the Massachusetts congressional delegation wrote letters to federal immigration officials on Thursday seeking answers on why Iranian student Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi was deported as he returned to Boston this week to study at Northeastern University.
US Reps. Joe Kennedy III and Ayanna Pressley along with Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren asked acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan about other instances where people with valid student visas had been deported from Boston’s Logan Airport as well as similar cases at other US airports.
Kennedy, who is accusing border patrol of targeting those of Iranian descent, wants the number of students with valid visas who have been deported by border patrol, and details on the basis for those removals. He also asked whether the agency told Abadi of the charges against him.
“Reports suggesting students who lawfully arrive at our country’s borders in furtherance of their education are being denied on the basis of extreme racial or ethnic profiling are deeply offensive and demand our urgent attention,” Kennedy wrote in his letter.
Several other students including a second at Northeastern, one at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, another incoming at Iowa State University, and a Harvard Divinity School student have all been turned away.
A CBP spokesman said the agency “will reply directly to the letter,” in reference to Markey, Warren and Pressley’s letter. They have asked for a reply by Feb. 6. There has been no word on whether CBP will reply to Kennedy’s inquiries.
An anonymous Department of Homeland Security official has told a handful of news outlets that the Border Patrol officials at Logan Airport denied Abadi entry into the country because they believe his family has ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is listed as a terrorist group by the government.
Pressley, Warren, and Markey said in their letter that federal immigration agents alleged no specific connection to any designated terrorist organization to Dehghani himself.
Legal representatives for Abadi, noting the Dehghani and Abadi names are common Iranian surnames, say any mix-up with the Revolutionary Guard is a case of mistaken identity. “These claims are a shameful attempt to redirect attention from US Customs and Border Protection’s troubling behavior and the Trump administration’s xenophobic policies,” said attorney Susan Church.Church questioned why the federal government would have issued Abadi a student visa following an extensive background check and vetting process if the claims are true.
Abadi arrived at Logan International Airport on Sunday night to begin his spring semester at Northeastern after spending a year back home in Iran renewing his visa and visiting family. He was detained for secondary questioning by agents, and told he would be denied entry. A judge issued an emergency stay of removal Monday night at 9:28 p.m., which would have allowed Abadi to remain in the country for 48 hours as his case was assessed by a district court judge. Instead, he was deported on a 9:56 p.m. flight to Paris in violation of that order, as border officials were aware of the stay, according to his attorney.