Iranian Americans

Iranian-Americans Held at America-Canada Border

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Iranian-Americans fear they will be profiled and targeted by US authorities amid the escalating tensions between Iran and America, after being targeted at the America-Canada border in Blaine, Washington.

The start of the warring escalation between the two nations began when President Donald Trump confirmed American forces were responsible for the airstrike in Baghdad on Friday 3rd January, killing Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani.

In the crossfire of the two nations are its citizens. We know from history that white American citizens are unlikely to feel the impact of war or the tensions and it will be ordinary Iranian individuals, Iranian-Americans and highly likely anyone the Trump administration suspects of being Middle Eastern. Trump’s previous ban on migrants from seven Islamic countries prove that he doesn’t differentiate between countries he sees as “different” and inferior to the US, on what can only be because the majority of citizens from those countries are people of colour or practice Islam. 

Iranian Americans
A rally in front of the White House in support of Iranian liberation last year included a performance by Los Angeles singer, Shifteh, pictured in February. Outside of Iran, Southern California boasts being home to the largest Iranian population. [Alex Brandon/AP]

Trump and his administration must ensure they do not treat Iranian migrants or Iranian Americans as automatic dangers. Such a mistake would ostracize an entire community who are not at fault and it will allow for racist rhetoric to run freely

The first high profile case of targeting Iranian-Americans since the assassination of Soleimani took place over the first week of January with approximately 100-200 individuals being interrogated at the border in Washington. 

A woman, using the pseudonym of Heidi due to fears of repercussions, told The HuffPost that she was asked invasive questions regarding her place of birth, her occupation, if she had ever handled a gun and what was her view on the recent political issues between America and Iran. Heidi stated that her and her girlfriend both hold Nexus cards which means they are eligible for expedited processing and have done the trip to and from Canada over the border numerous times.

American Customs and Border Protection said it was “operating with an enhanced posture at its port of entry” because of the “current threat environment,” but reject the accounts that details over 100 individuals of Iranian descent were held without any justification, with some individuals held for up to 11 hours.

General Soleimani
General Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike as orchestrated by the US president. [AFP/GETTY/BBC]

Despite the CBP’s protestations, the consistent evidence of the Trump administration’s treatment of people of colour, migrants and Muslims, it is not outrageous that American officials are seeing all Iranians including Americans with dual heritage as a threat. As seen with Iraq, if there is to be a war with Iran, the destruction of daily life will be felt most severely by those residing in the Middle Eastern country and anyone with Iranian heritage in the US. 

As seen with Iraq, if there is to be a war with Iran, the destruction of daily life will be felt most severely by those residing in the Middle Eastern country

Mana Mostatabi, Communications Director at the National Iranian American Council which works on behalf of Iranian Americans to ensure their civil rights are protected said: “If we can’t count even on our local leadership to protect us as Americans, we are barrelling down a very dangerous path and our civil liberties really are threatened right now.”

Trump and his administration must ensure they do not treat Iranian migrants or Iranian Americans as automatic dangers. Such a mistake would ostracize an entire community who are not at fault and it will allow for racist rhetoric to run freely, encouraging racist acts and violence towards innocent people. Sadly, there is little evidence to suggest President Trump will condemn such practices.

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