The detention of Iranian-Americans – approximately 60 people from 25 households held and not free to leave after intensive questioning – at the U.S.-Canadian border at Blaine, Washington, this past weekend points to the dangerous logic of war and the intersectionality of issues of racism, xenophobia, and war as forms of violence that continue to cause such damage to our social fabric. Thanks to the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) for attending to many of the families affected by the “unnecessary, unwise and untimely” actions by the Customs and Border Patrol authorities, presumably under directive from higher levels of the Department of Homeland Security. The Iranian-Americans were singled out for scrutiny, despite the fact that they were U.S. citizens and permanent residents and never having previously faced the type of intrusive questioning. All other people crossing the border during the weekend did not face the 2-12 hour investigation that was deeply upsetting to parents and children alike.
The detentions were clearly linked to the aftermath of the killing of the Iranian General, Qassim Suleimani, in Iraq by a U.S. drone last week and the consequent increased risk of war. The perception that Iranian-Americans were a threat because of having Iranian ancestry constitutes a new manifestation of xenophobia. Unfortunately, the thread of xenophobia runs consistently through our nation’s history. Particularly, these actions remind people of conscience of the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans, most of whom were citizens, in concentration camps during World War II, without due process or recourse. These were also reminiscent of the forced special registration regime after 9/11 and the Muslim travel ban of 2017. From a moral and spiritual perspective, the holding of Iranian-American families without reason nor probable cause is an unacceptable offense to the notion of basic civil and human rights and must not be repeated in our land. As people of faith and good will, we stand with these and other Iranian-Americans in the United States who have settled here legally and in many cases were born here. As with all people regardless of ethnicity, race or national origin, they deserve to “live in peace and unafraid.” We will advocate to ensure that their basic dignity and rights are upheld and affirmed.
The circumstances for the detention of the Iranian-Americans underscore the impacts of the renewed prospects of war. We recall these words from the national statement, “Faith Leaders Issue Emphatic ‘No’ to War with Iran (2019)”:
…War is not the answer with Iran and is unjustifiable on moral and religious grounds. Such war would likely have disastrous human and environmental consequences, would be strategically unnecessary, and would lead to regional destabilization, increased terrorism, and unsustainable financial burdens.
The call for diplomacy is immediate and paramount to reduce the cycle of escalation and the further devastating consequences that such escalation portends. Congress needs to assert its proper authority as the body that prevents the perpetration of war and calls for measures that can lead to the cessation of hostilities and the restoration of relationships between Iran, the United States, and other nations in the Middle East. Specifically, we call on Congress to act to pass legislation to prevent unilateral action by the President to engage in a war with Iran.
Finally, urgent action is required to prevent the development, expansion, threat and possible use of nuclear weapons and to restore focus on international cooperation to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons. Preventing nuclear proliferation was the goal of the Iran nuclear agreement. The preservation of this agreement, with unprecedented international verification, will contribute to creating the conditions for a climate of peace. We decry any participation in a new nuclear arms race as contrary to the moral imperative to affirm and uphold human life and the sustenance of our planet.
May the God of Peace inspire the moral and spiritual commitment to bring about the change of hearts, minds and relationships to transform the violence of racism, xenophobia and the threat of war toward ways of local, national and global cooperation and relationship, built on a foundation of dignity, equity, justice and our common humanity.
We invite you to contact your congressional representatives with two messages:
- With our friends from the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN), we urge passage of the NO BAN Act, which would repeal all versions of the Muslim ban, refugee ban, and asylum ban; change immigration law to prevent discrimination based on religion; and, limit executive authority to prevent any president from issuing future discriminatory bans.
- With our friends from the Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR), we urge passage of the Slotkins/Kaine War Powers Resolution to Prevent War with Iran (SJ Res 63).
Read more about the NO BAN Act and the Slotkins/Kaine War Powers Resolution to Prevent War with Iran. Then please contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives:
*Phone numbers and email contact for your Senators and Congressional Representatives (click name to email):
Senator Patty Murray: (202) 224–2621
Senator Maria Cantwell: (202) 224–3441
Not sure which district you’re in? Look up your representative by zip code
District 1: Rep. Suzan DelBene (202) 225–6311
District 2: Rep. Rick Larsen (202) 225–2605
District 3: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (202) 225–3536
District 4: Rep. Dan Newhouse (202) 225–5816
District 5: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (202) 225–2006
District 6: Rep. Derek Kilmer (202) 225–5916
District 7: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (202) 225–3106
District 8: Rep. Kim Schrier (202) 225–7761
District 9: Rep. Adam Smith (202) 225–8901
District 10: Rep. Denny Heck (202) 225–9740
Other statements made by faith organizations include:
National Council of Churches Urges De-escalation of Hostilities Between US and Iran
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns’ Faith Statement on Escalating Violence with Iran