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U.S. Official Claims Deported Iranian Student's Family Has Ties To Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at Boston's Logan International Airport denied Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi entry into the country because they believe his immediate family has ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told WBUR Wednesday.

The DHS official also claimed Abadi has close family ties to a transport company sanctioned by the U.S. government in 2010 for allegedly providing support and weapons to Hezbollah on behalf of the IRGC.

Kerry Doyle, an attorney for Abadi, denied her client had "any grounds of inadmissibility." She said the 24-year-old was traveling to the U.S. with a valid F-1 student visa before he was held for secondary questioning by CBP at Logan.

"This client underwent extensive processing, almost a year, and thorough investigation before receiving his student visa. We have no information or understanding of anything different than that," Doyle said.

She would not comment on Abadi's family connections.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs issued an emergency stay Monday night. The federal order mandated that CBP delay Abadi's removal for two days, and scheduled a hearing in Boston federal court Tuesday morning. He was deported that night.

After a very brief discussion during that hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns dismissed the case, declaring it moot because Abadi had already been removed from the U.S. despite the federal court order. Government attorneys said Abadi was deported before the order was issued; Doyle disagreed.

Doyle said Abadi's legal team will continue to fight on his behalf.

"We're going to hold CBP and the other immigration agencies accountable for their illegal behavior and their attempt to try to shift the focus away from their refusal to follow a federal court order," she said.

U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, along with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, wrote the acting director of CBP, Mark Morgan, Thursday expressing their "serious concern regarding the pattern of U.S. Customs and Border Protection targeting Iranian students for secondary inspection..."

They specifically request additional information about Abadi's case, calling CBP's apparent refusal to honor a federal court order "outrageous" and asking the agency what it intends to do to remedy the situation.

Nearly 100 Northeastern University faculty members signed a letter Thursday addressed to DHS officials in support of Abadi, who began studying economics and math at the school in 2018. The faculty argue Abadi was wrongfully denied entry into the U.S. and say he's one of several Iranian students traveling with valid F-1 visas who've been turned away by Boston-based CBP since August 2019.

Susan Church, a Cambridge-based immigration attorney, represents both Abadi and Reihana Emami Arandi, another Iranian national who was planning on attending Harvard's divinity school last fall.

Arandi, 35, was denied entry into the U.S. by CBP at Boston's Logan Airport in September 2019. Her visa was revoked, and she was placed on a plane for removal from the country. Church filed a motion in Boston's federal court, asking for CBP to reopen Arandi's removal order.

"This is not an isolated incident," Church said Tuesday morning following Abadi's deportation. "This is a pattern of misbehavior by this administration who lacks respect for the rule of law and lacks respect for the individuals here who are coming here just to attend school and to get a degree and to further their knowledge."

Related:

Shannon Dooling Twitter Reporter
Shannon Dooling is an immigration reporter at WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station.

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