Civil rights complaint filed on behalf of deported Iranian student

Harvard Divinity School student Reihana Emami Arandi denied entry in September 2019

On Jan. 29, attorneys from the Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) submitted a complaint to the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on behalf of their client, Reihana Emami Arandi, an Iranian student who was denied entry to the United States despite having a valid visa to attend the Harvard Divinity School.

The complaint details extensive discriminatory behavior and regulatory violations by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that began upon Ms. Emami Arandi’s arrival at Logan Airport on September 18, 2019.  After eighteen hours of travel, Ms. Emami Arandi faced a grueling interrogation by CBP officers, during which she was asked discriminatory and arbitrary questions regarding her religion and political beliefs. When she asked to speak to the Harvard International Office, her request was denied and she was left unable to communicate with anyone, as CBP had confiscated her phones and laptop.

“Ms. Emami Arandi suffered, and continues to suffer, lasting trauma due to CBP’s egregious violations of its own regulations and procedures,” said Sabi Ardalan ’02, clinic director. “CBP’s abuse of discretion in repeatedly denying entry and revoking valid visas of students from the Middle East based on unfounded allegations of immigrant intent requires investigation.”

After over eight hours of interrogation, Ms. Emami Arandi was ultimately denied entry to the United States and immediately sent back to Iran. She now faces a five-year bar. Throughout her interactions with CBP, she was never presented with any evidence to support the revocation of her student visa.

“I couldn’t and still cannot believe how I was treated and why I received such behavior and this five-year bar, when all I did was present for entry with a valid visa that the State Department gave me and all other legal documents, so that I could pursue my education in the United States,” Ms. Emami Arandi stated in a declaration, which the clinic submitted as part of the complaint to DHS.

Ms. Emami Arandi’s case is one of nearly a dozen other Iranian students who have been denied entry and deported from Logan Airport over the past year.