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Democrats demand answers over detained Iranian-Americans at border

Jan. 8 (UPI) -- House Democrats have sent a letter to the Trump administration demanding answers in connection to reports of dozens of Iranian-Americans detained over the weekend at the U.S.-Canada border.

On Sunday, the Council on American Islamic relations said more than 60 Iranians and U.S. citizens of Iranian descent were detained at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Washington, while attempting to re-enter the United States from British Columbia, Canada.

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The advocacy group reported people were subjected to secondary screening for up to 10 hours, accusations U.S. Customs and Border Protection denied.

In the letter addressed to Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security; Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of CBP; and Kenneth Williams, port director for Blaine, the Democrats said they were writing to express their "alarm" at the reports of people of Iranian heritage being detained at the border.

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"Observers on the ground have reported that as many as 200 people were held for secondary inspection during this period. Many impacted individuals were U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, including seniors and children," the Democrats said in the letter.

Following news of the alleged detentions over the weekend, CBP released a statement saying the department was not under a directive to subject people of Iranian descent to further screening amid heightened tensions with the Middle Eastern country and the longer processing time was "due to increased volume and reduced staff during the holiday season."

The Democrats dismissed these statements as they do not address why "pre-cleared U.S. citizen travelers" were placed in secondary inspection for hours or why some people were detained throughout Saturday starting at as early as 8 a.m.

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The Democrats are demanding a briefing on the matter, the entry port's data for Friday to Monday and documents on whether directives or orders were issued regarding the screening of people of Iranian heritage in response to escalating tensions with the Middle Eastern country.

The information is to be delivered no later than Jan. 21, the letter said.

The letter was signed by House judiciary subcommittee on immigration and citizenship Vice Chair Pramila Jayapal, House judiciary committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, House judiciary subcommittee on immigration and citizenship Chair Zoe Lofgren, House homeland security Chairman Bennie Thompson and House oversight and reform committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney.

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