An Iranian cancer researcher was detained at Boston’s Logan International Airport and put on a return flight, according to US Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson Stephanie Malin.
Mohsen Dehnavi was arriving in the US on Monday, with his family, to start work at a prominent Boston hospital.
Boston Children’s Hospital said in a statement that Dehnavi was prevented from entering the country with his wife and three young children despite holding a J-1 visa for visiting scholars.
The hospital said the reasons for the detention were unclear.
“Boston Children’s hopes that this situation will be quickly resolved and Dr. Dehnavi and his family will be allowed to enter the US,” hospital spokesperson Rob Graham said in the statement.
“The hospital is committed to doing its utmost to support Dr. Dehnavi and his family.”
Malin said the detention was for “reasons unrelated” to President Donald Trump’s executive order on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries, claiming it was based on information discovered during the agency’s review. She didn’t elaborate.
Malin noted that visa applicants who meet all requirements can be denied entry for a range of reasons, including health-related issues, criminality or security concerns.
The Supreme Court recently ruled the Trump administration could largely enforce its temporary ban on travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. But the court said the ban can’t block people with a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”
Some advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Iranian American Council, suggested the detention might be a violation of the Supreme Court order.
“The family is very worried,” said Shayan Modarres, a lawyer for the DC-based council, which has been in contact with the family. “If it is a minor paperwork issue, then something needs to be told to the family so they can resolve it.”
At the very least, the incident shows how the administration’s political priorities are leading to “overzealous enforcement” of immigration laws, said Gregory Romanovsky, chair of the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association.
“Exercising discretion is not what they’re comfortable doing anymore, especially if they’re dealing with someone from one of the six banned countries,” he said of local customs officials.
“The travel ban and the whole anti-immigrant mood coming from the very top of this administration certainly affects their ability.”