Iranian student studying in Boston denied US entry as Trump mulls expanding 'Muslim travel ban'

Iranian student studying in Boston denied US entry as Trump mulls expanding 'Muslim travel ban'
The US and Iran are teetering on the edge after the former country ordered the killing of commander Qasem Soleimani, and it appears Iranian expats are feeling the sting.
4 min read
22 January, 2020
This comes as relations between the US and Iran crack [Getty]
An Iranian student studying at Boston University has been denied entry into the US despite a court temporarily staying his removal, as relations between the countries teeter on the edge.

Shahab Dehghani, a 24-year-old economics student at Northwestern University, had arrived in Boston with a valid student visa but was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol at Logan International Airport, according to his lawyer Kerry Doyle.

Customs officials ordered Dehghani, whose full name is Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi, to leave on the next available flight because, they claimed, he was intending to stay in the US longer than his temporary visa allowed.

Dehghani rejects that claim, and his lawyers say he attended the University of Massachusetts Boston before transferring to Northwestern, a prestigious Ivy League institution.

There he had undergone a one-year visa review and he planned to return to Iran when he completed his studies.

"He's understandably upset," Heather Yountz, a lawyer also involved in the case told AP.

"He's been a student here in Massachusetts for two years. His life has now been turned around."

Customs and Border Patrol declined to comment on specifics but said each person seeking entry to the country has the burden to prove they can overcome "all grounds of inadmissibility", including "health-related grounds, criminality, security reasons, public charge, labour certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements, and miscellaneous grounds".

While he was at the airport Monday, Dehghani's attorneys filed an emergency lawsuit seeking to hold off his removal, which a federal judge quickly approved, pending a court hearing.

On Tuesday, Judge Richard Stearns said the case was moot and out of his jurisdiction because Dehghani ended up flying out of the US that night.

Doyle confirmed Dehghani took a flight to Paris on Monday but disputed the judge's assertions.

She also challenged federal prosecutors who argued Dehghani was removed from the country before the emergency order was issued.

Doyle argued he was still at the airport at the time the judge issued the temporary stay, suggesting customs officials violated the order.

Northeastern University said it has also been in touch with federal officials to try and get Dehghani back to Boston for his classes.

"We still have not received a satisfactory explanation from Customs and Border Protection for this action," the university said late Tuesday. "Only in the most extreme instances should students have their academic pursuits interrupted by government intervention."

Doyle and other immigrant rights activists say Dehghani's case is the latest example of customs officials at Logan Airport ignoring court orders since President Donald Trump issued a ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries in 2017, including Iran.

Frosty relations

An Iranian MP has offered a multi-million dollar reward to anyone who kills President Donald Trump and also called on Tehran to develop nuclear weapons, as fractures between the two countries deepen over the killing of Qasem Soleimani by US forces.

Trump warns Iran not to push it [Getty]

Students have been on the receiving end of tension between the two countries, which increased over the past year after Trump took the US out of the nuclear pact. Since August, at least ten students have been sent back to Iran upon arrival at US airports.

"We feel the Iranian community has been unfortunately targeted," Doyle said. "We're hearing many reports, especially at the Boston port of entry, of Iranian students and other individuals being subjected to increased and severe interrogation at secondary inspections."

Civil rights groups and lawmakers complained this month to federal officials after Iranian Americans said they had been questioned for hours at the Canadian border in Washington state in the days after US forces killed a top Iranian general and the Trump administration feared retaliation from Iran.

Hamed Yarmand was among more than two dozen people who rallied outside of Boston federal court Tuesday in support of Dehghani.

Yarmand, who is Iranian American, said he was one of Dehghani's professors at UMass Boston and described him as a good student who was involved in school activities.

"It's not fair," Yarmand said. "President Trump says he supports the Iranian people. But how does that work, with these sanctions and this travel ban? There seems to be a contradiction with what he says and what this administration is doing in practice."

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