The attorneys for a 24-year-old Iranian national and Northeastern University student who inspired protests at Boston Logan International Airport over the weekend said their client was deported late Monday in spite of a federal court order.
Shahab Dehghani was detained Sunday night at about 5 p.m. when he arrived to study economics at the private school on a valid F1 student visa. He was held for secondary questioning by federal agents, and more than 100 people reportedly came out to demonstrate on his behalf outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) area of the airport for at least three hours on Monday. Protesters chanted “let Shahab in,” “do the right thing,” “stop deporting students,” and “let him in!”
Dehghani was ordered removed from the U.S. without his having access to a lawyer, WBUR reported, but his attorneys, Susan Church and Kerry Doyle, filed an emergency federal petition on his behalf Monday night. The filing claimed CBP agents violated Dehghani’s rights when they detained him at the airport in the first place.
“It is not a total victory. It is a partial victory,” Church told a crowd of protesters on Monday night, according to MassLive.com.
Despite that order, Church said on Twitter Tuesday morning that Shahab Dehghani was “removed from the U.S. at 10:03 p.m.” Monday after agents told “multiple attorneys” that he was taken off the plane about 30 minutes earlier.
Church tweeted on Tuesday morning: “THEY LIED.”
A CBP spokesperson said in a statement that the agency could not confirm or deny that Dehghani was even in custody, citing the Privacy Act.
“Applicants must demonstrate they are admissible into the U.S. by overcoming all grounds of inadmissibility including health-related grounds, criminality, security reasons, public charge, labor certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements, and miscellaneous grounds,” the statement said.
Judge Richard G. Stearns reportedly dismissed the case during a Tuesday morning hearing, declaring the issue moot—since Dehghani had already been deported—and noting that he did not believe he had the authority to order CBP to allow for the student’s return, according to WBUR.
During the 10 a.m. hearing in Boston federal court, CBP attorneys also disputed the timeline presented by Dehghani’s attorneys, one of whom said Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey received confirmation that the emergency stay order was granted before the flight took off, WBUR reported. In court, the agency’s attorneys reportedly claimed that Dehghani’s plane left before the order was issued.
“We are aware that a Northeastern University student who is an Iranian citizen has been denied entry to the United States,” school spokeswoman Shannon Nargi said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Northeastern welcomes thousands of international students and supports them with an array of resources. We have been in touch with federal officials to learn more about this case and to provide our student with the appropriate assistance to facilitate a successful return to Northeastern.”
Dehghani previously attended University of Massachusetts Boston and was in the country for more than two years before he returned to Iran to visit family in December 2018, MassLive.com reported.
Massachusetts Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren recently requested more information from CBP about additional security measures that may target Iranian travelers entering the country. The Guardian reported that the U.S. has deported at least 10 Iranian students with valid visas since August—despite the lengthy and intense approval process it takes to acquire that paperwork. Seven of those students had reportedly flown into Logan International Airport in Boston, and some now allege serious infractions by an individual CBP officer at the Boston airport, the newspaper reported.
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