Defending Rights & Dissent Condemns Border Detentions of Iranian-Americans, Urges Congress to Assert Their Constitutional War Powers

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Days after Donald Trump ordered the assassination of an Iranian general, sparking concern of a US war with Iran, over 60 individuals of Iranian descent, including US citizens and permanent residents, were detained, had their passports confiscated, and were interrogated about their political beliefs at the US-Canadian border. This move follows patterns of past domestic repression that has accompanied US wars and raises concerns about even greater repression facing the Iranian-American community. 

Defending Rights & Dissent strongly condemns these detententions. It is flagrantly unconstitutional to subject someone to detention because of their national origin or ethnicity. It is entirely inappropriate for government agents to question US persons about their First Amendment protected political expression.

While disturbing, such a move is sadly not unprecedented. As noted in our report, Still Spying on Dissent: The Enduring Problem of FBI First Amendment Abuse, during the run up to the first Gulf War, FBI agents visited and questioned Arab Americans about their political views. 

Defending Rights & Dissents also notes that while the assassination of an Iranian military and political official constitutes an act of war, Trump has not received any authorization to wage war on Iran from Congress. Trump has also asserted that his tweets constitute notice to Congress of intent to use military force. Trump has also announced, once again via tweet, his plans to potentially retaliate against Iran by targeting civilian, Iranian cultural sites. This is unquestionably a war crime.

Trump is brazenly attempting to usurp Congress’s constitutional war powers. Defending Rights & Dissent calls on Congress to immediately reassert them, as well as, to end the culture of impunity for high ranking executive branch officials who commit war crimes, and abuses of human and constitutional rights.