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January 5, 2024

Press Statement: Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties – 4 years after Iranian Detainments

4 years ago today, following the Trump-led assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, NIAC called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate its discriminatory targeting and detaining of individuals based on their Iranian heritage, specifically after reports of scores of detentions at the U.S. border in Blaine, Washington. 

The DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) subsequently conducted an investigation into the complaints and released a “Recommendations Memo to CBP Concerning Alleged Nationality and Place of Birth Discrimination at the Blaine Port of Entry” on July 16th, 2021, which was not released to the public until later. 

Although DHS initially denied that the outwardly discriminatory targeting had been taking place, numerous complaints from NIAC and other groups made against DHS ultimately led to the official CRCL investigation and the subsequent release of its memo. The memo details how and why the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers at the Blaine Port of Entry had gone above and beyond DHS guidelines to target individuals based on their Iranian heritage, including the faults in communication and issues with jurisdiction. The bureaucratic investigation was followed by specific recommendations to avoid similar incidents in the future. Two were implemented while a third was not.

On the 4 year anniversary of this incident, and amid continued risks of direct war between the U.S. and Iran, NIAC reiterates its call for DHS to safeguard the rights of the Iranian-American community and to make sure that such discriminatory targeting never happens again. We remain committed to holding the necessary government officials and agencies accountable so that no Iranian or Iranian American is subjected to discriminatory targeting ever again.

Read our analysis on the CRCL memo here.

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