An Iranian student returning to university in Boston was denied entry to the United States and sent out of the country, immigration lawyers said.
Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein, a 24-year-old undergraduate student at Northeastern University, arrived on a flight into Boston International Logan Airport on Monday with a valid student visa, but was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).
Lawyers filed an emergency petition Monday night to allow him re-entry to attend college, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts. The U.S. District Court in Massachusetts issued an order allowing Dehghani to stay in the U.S. until a hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday.
But CBP put him on a flight out of the U.S. Monday night.
Kerry Doyle, one of Dehghani's lawyers, said CPB acted after the order was issued to allow the student to stay in the U.S. They say he is waiting in Paris.
Dehghani's "expedited removal is a result of additional scrutiny targeting Iranian citizens," and is not "based on legitimate concerns of Plaintiff's admissibility to the United States," his attorneys argued in court filings.
"As such, it violates equal protection guarantees against discrimination based on national origin, constitutional due process guarantees, and the Administrative Procedure Act," wrote his attorneys, who include Kerry Doyle, Susan Church and lawyers from Americans for Civil Liberties (ACLU).
Like most of the more than 1 million international students in the U.S., Dehghani's student F-1 visa was issued by the U.S. Department of State and administered by agencies within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
"He went through an extensive processing period before he came back, which means that overseas investigators investigate his family, they speak to employers, they do a very thorough investigation," Church told reporters outside the courthouse.
"It is unclear why Defendants would now decide, after conducting a full visa issuance process, that Plaintiff's student visa should be revoked," Doyle said in the filing.
At Tuesday's hearing, Doyle argued that Dehghani had not boarded his flight when the order was issued and should be returned to the U.S.
U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns said the case was moot and out of his jurisdiction because the student was no longer in the U.S.
Dehghani's attorneys disputed the judge's ruling, and say they are weighing Dehghani's legal options.
Attorneys complained that customs officials in Boston have a "pattern" of ignoring court orders, such as removing people from the U.S. despite legal injunctions.
At least 10 students have been sent back to Iran upon arrival at U.S. airports since August 2019, the ACLU said. Seven had flown into Logan airport.
"In America, nobody is above the law - including Customs and Border Protection officials. ... We are looking at all options to hold CBP accountable for wrongfully deporting Iranians and other students who hold valid visas," Carol Rose, executive director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a statement.
CBP told the Guardian newspaper in a Jan. 14 article that "it was not at liberty to discuss an individual's processing, and that it prohibits profiling on the basis of race or religion." It added that the agency "is operating with an enhanced security posture."
'Maximum pressure' campaign
Earlier in January, reports indicated that the Trump administration would be expanding its much litigated travel ban that restricts travel and immigration from five majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as Venezuela and North Korea.
White House Considering Major Travel Ban Expansion President Donald Trump made immigration a signature issue of his 2016 campaign and is renewing the election-year focus by on immigration issues
In September, President Donald Trump declared an entry ban to "restrict and suspend" the ability of "senior government officials of Iran and their immediate family members" to enter the U.S. as immigrants or nonimmigrants. The president called it a "maximum pressure" campaign to push Iran to end perceived malign behaviors.
Northeastern University released a statement saying it has reached out to federal officials to try to help Dehghani.
"Northeastern welcomes thousands of international students and supports them with an array of resources," the university said in a statement. "We have been in touch with federal officials to learn more about this case and to provide our students with the appropriate assistance to facilitate a successful return to Northeastern."