PACIFIC PALISADES (CBSLA) — Growing tensions between the United States and Iran abroad might be starting to impact Iranian American families domestically.
Darian Vaziri, a 21-year-old man from Pacific Palisades, said he and his family were held for hours at the United States-Canada border.
“We’re all American citizens,” Vaziri said.
But, Vaziri said, that did not stop U.S. Border Patrol agents from questioning his family after they returned to Seattle from a short trip to Vancouver, British Columbia.
“It was obviously a safety precaution, because of what’s going on,” he said. “But I think it was just extreme.”
Vaziri and his sister are both college students, born and raised in Los Angeles. Their parents were born in Iran.
“They’ve been in America for decades,” Vaziri said. “They’re American citizens.”
Vaziri’s father went to the University of Southern California and the University of California Los Angeles. He’s a dentist in Pacific Palisades.
The family has planted deep roots in America, spending the holidays together in Seattle. But it was after a short trip that the family was stopped as they returned at a border crossing in Blaine, Washington.
“They took our passports and our keys,” Vaziri said.
He said the family was then held in a room with other Iranians — including children Vaziri said looked scared.
“It’s a little bit alarming,” he said. “They didn’t realize they were in there because their parents are from Iran, and that’s considered a threat right now.”
Vaziri said he and his sister were asked whether they were Iranian citizens and if they had Iranian passports. They both answered no.
But, Vaziri said, his parents were asked a number of questions about their family and military service. After more than four hours, the family was released.
“They gave us our passports back and our keys and said, ‘Yeah, OK, you’re free to go,'” Vaziri said. “No explanation.”
The questioning could be fallout from the killing of Quassem Soleimani, though a Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson denied Iranians were delayed due to their national origin.
A statement sent Monday night by CBP said wait times at port of entries can fluctuate based on a number of factors.
“Processing times are the result of the current circumstances, including staffing levels, volume of traffic, and threat posture,” the statement said. “At the Blaine POE, wait times increased to an average of two hours on Saturday evening, although some travelers experienced wait times of up to four hours due to increased volume and reduced staff during the holiday season. … CBP does not discriminate based on religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”