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Iranian Americans Questioned at the Border: Can they do that?

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses an important topic. Recently Iranian Americans with dual citizenship have been questioned by Customs and Border Protection upon re-entering the United States. Our clients have been asking: can the government do this?

Stay tuned to find out more.

Overview: 

As our readers may be aware tensions between the United States and Iran have been at an all-time high following the killing of Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian military commander by a United States airstrike.

Since Soleimani’s killing, the Iranian government and supreme leader have vowed to retaliate against the United States.

The United States Department of State has issued a level four travel advisory notice for Iran, alerting United States Citizens of the dangers they may face in traveling to Iran including kidnapping, arbitrary arrest, and detention. The DOS has also advised United States citizens against traveling because the United States government does not have any diplomatic or consular relations with the government of Iran and cannot provide emergency assistance to U.S. Citizens in Iran.

The DOS has also made clear on its website that Iranians with U.S./Iranian nationality are not immune to these dangers and are advised against traveling.

CBP’s Right to Question

Having said that, generally Customs and Border Protection has the right to question any individual seeking admission to the United States about any matter that they consider relevant in determining an individual’s admissibility to the country.

Given the current circumstances and political climate, it is expected for Customs and Border Protection to question Iranian American dual citizens at the port of entry, about things like their social media, what they were doing in Iran, their feelings about the political situation in Iran, who they know in Iran, and other such questions.

While this may be a very concerning situation for Iranian American citizens, the reality is that the current political situation between the two countries legitimizes CBP’s ability to question Iranian nationals at U.S. port of entry.

If a CBP officer oversteps their limits and goes further than what is considered acceptable during questioning, it is possible for a traveler to file a complaint with CBP so that they may investigate.  Otherwise, such questioning is simply a sign of the times. We expect such targeted questioning against Iranian Americans to subside as political tensions quell.

We hope that this video was helpful.

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