U.S. Reps Want CBP's Internal Report on 2020 Detainment of Iranian Americans at Border

Washington representatives Pramila Jayapal and Suzan DelBene on Tuesday called for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to release records connected to the January 2020 detainment of 200 Iranian Americans at the U.S.-Canada border, the Associated Press reported. The two congresswomen also made demands for the agency to issue a formal public apology and renounce the detainments.

Travelers with links to Iran were held for hours at the border between Canada and Washington in the days after Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian general, was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Many of the people who were detained at the border were U.S. citizens, and some had been members of a program for trusted travelers.

In a letter sent to the CBP Tuesday, Jayapal and DelBene denounced the agency's actions, the AP reported.

"Men, women and children legally entering or returning to the United States at a designated port of entry should not be arbitrarily held and questioned solely based on their religion, ethnicity, or national origin," the congresswomen wrote.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Jayapal Calls For CBP Documents
Washington representatives Pramila Jayapal and Suzan DelBene called for the CBP to release records connected to the detainment of 200 Iranian Americans at the U.S.-Canada border. Above, Jayapal, speaks to reporters after meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrats at the U.S. Capitol on November 2, 2021. J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

At the time, CBP said it had not targeted Iranian Americans based on their country of origin or issued any such directive to its officers. Instead, the agency blamed the detainments for as long as 12 hours on reduced staffing because of the holiday season and increased traffic.

But a month after the incident, then-CBP acting commissioner Mark Morgan said that border officials in Washington state "got a little overzealous" when they detained Iranian and Iranian American travelers following the drone strike.

He added, "we corrected that right away."

But Jayapal and DelBene are asking for more recognition and details of the detainments that took place between January 5-6 as the U.S. was teetering on the brink of a war with Iran.

The letter makes the request for a formal apology from CBP in response to a January 5, 2020, tweet in which the agency denied that Iranian Americans were being subjected to increased scrutiny in the screening process.

The Democratic lawmakers also ask for the "prompt publication" of an internal report that described what took place at the border crossing on those days. And finally, the letter asked for the agency to hold a press conference "to publicly renounce their actions, and commit to changes moving forward."

The deadline stated for these requests is January 5, 2022, the second anniversary of the detainments.

"In conjunction with the Iranian community, we eagerly await the development and release of a corrective action plan to assure that these events do not recur," the letter read.

Jayapal, DelBene Call for CBP Records
Washington representatives Pramila Jayapal and Suzan DelBene made demands for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to issue a formal public apology and renunciation for the detainment of Iranian Americans in January 2020. Above, DelBene (R) and Del. Stacey Plaskett hold a news conference with fellow members of the New Democrat Coalition outside the U.S. Capitol on May 19, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images