Civil Rights Complaint Regarding CBP’s Mistreatment of Harvard Medical Fellow

On April 2, 2021, and April 18, 2021, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) denied Dr. Maryam, a Canadian citizen from Iran, entry into the United States. Dr. Maryam attempted to enter the United States using her Canadian passport and all necessary evidence to support her admission in J-1 status. She and her family planned to stay in the U.S. for two years during Dr. Maryam’s competitive two-year fellowship at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The family planned to return to Canada after Dr. Maryam finished her fellowship.

During her first attempted entry, Dr. Maryam, her husband, and her two children drove with their belongings to the port of entry in Pembina, North Dakota. CBP pulled the family over for secondary inspection after seeing Dr. Maryam and her husband were born in Iran. CBP arbitrarily and discriminatorily interrogated Dr. Maryam’s husband for eight hours about his past in Iran, his thoughts and feelings about the killing of Qassem Soleimani, and his previous compulsory military service. Eventually, the family was turned back for allegedly failing to show non-immigrant intent—even after providing evidence of assets and ties to Canada. CBP issued an expedited removal order against Dr. Maryam’s husband and asked Dr. Maryam to withdraw her request for admission. CBP also took both fingerprints and DNA samples from Dr. Maryam and her husband before the family left the facility.

On April 18, 2021, Dr. Maryam attempted to enter the United States again. She planned to fly from Toronto to the United States, but CBP once again interrogated her and turned her back. This time, the CBP officer in secondary inspection denied her entry because (1) she allegedly had to wait until her husband’s case was resolved and (2) the CBP officer incorrectly told her that there that a “travel ban” against Iranian nationals prevented her from lawfully entering the country.

After her attempts to enter the U.S., Dr. Maryam filed an application for a J-1 visa with the U.S. Consulate (even though Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a visa in advance to enter the United States). The U.S. Consulate in Calgary refuses to adjudicate the case, saying that it is waiting for her husband’s case to first be resolved.

In response to the inhumane treatment and rejection of Dr. Maryam and her family, Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program filed an administrative complaint to the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), requesting CRCL to further investigate the April 2 and April 18 incidents. Additionally, the Program filed a writ of mandamus in the district court, requesting the Department of State adjudicate Dr. Maryam’s visa within 15 days of an order, pursuant to the Administration Procedures Act (APA) or to the court’s Mandamus authority.

Counsel: Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, Harvard Law School
Contact: Sabrineh Ardalan | sardalan@law.harvard.edu