We Demand the Safe Re-Entry of Reihana Emami Arandi (2019 Harvard Divinity School)

We Demand the Safe Re-Entry of Reihana Emami Arandi (2019 Harvard Divinity School)

February 7, 2020
Signatures: 1,301Next Goal: 1,500
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Why this petition matters

Started by Act on A Dream @ Harvard College

On September 18, 2019, Reihana Emami Arandi arrived from Tehran, Iran to Boston Logan Airport, ready to start classes as a member of Harvard’s Divinity School. Reihana had already been approved in a months-long process evaluating her case and granting her a visa. Upon arrival, she was pulled aside for secondary questioning and questioned for over 8 hours. Subsequently, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) denied her entry, gave a 5-year ban, and boarded her on a flight back to Iran that same night. We call on the Harvard community and the national government for support. We are demanding for her safe re-entry to the United States, where she will be able to begin her studies at Harvard University. 

During questioning, Reihana was held for over 8 hours. There, she was questioned intensively, including things like asking her about her Qur’an when they searched her luggage. The only reason CBP has cited for denying her entry and issuing “expedited removal” is intent to stay permanently, which has been the catch-all reason used in most if not all cases of denying entry and sending back Iranians in these past months. This reason has been cited even though Reihana has no family or friends in the United States, and she and her lawyers categorically deny such intent. And CBP has refused to give any further information in court cases since. CBP not only gave false reasons for denying her entry and asked political questions that had nothing to do with their reasoning for denying entry. They also included false information in the document that they had provided Reihana. The officer and supervisor that interrogated her did not include their names anywhere on the form, suggesting purposeful concealing of their identities. CBP deported her to Iran without giving her any reason before they sent her back. They refused to speak to the Harvard Immigration Office (HIO) staff or allow her to speak to them as she repeatedly requested. They put her documents and electronics in her checked bags so she would not be able to share anything, including the documents with their cited reason for denied entry, with HIO until she arrived back in Iran. 

The actions of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, including their classification of Reihana’s intentions were not only wrong and baseless, but arbitrary and reprehensible. Reihana was seeking an education at Harvard, one of the world’s best educational institutions, to further her studies in religion and philosophy, including the study of Sufism and mystical religion that is of an open-minded orientation and builds bridges between faith communities.

This denial and discrimination is part of an unprecedented pattern of targeting Iranian students in past months. In the past several months, at least 17 Iranian students have been denied entry upon arrival at U.S. airports and at least 7 of them were denied entry at Boston Logan Airport, with complaints about a specific CBP officer.

Further, a CBP directive to look further into anyone with connections to Iran or Lebanon has been leaked, despite CBP having falsely insisted that there was no such directive to question Iranians. Iranian-American U.S. citizens and permanent residents have also been targeted, including up to 200 people of Iranian descent at the Washington border who were held by border agents. This is part of a coordinated campaign that is targeting Iranians due to the political climate.

Reihana’s case also followed the August case of fellow Harvard student Isma’il Ajjawi, who was initially denied entry and sent back the same day before finally CBP later reconsidered and allowed him to return to Harvard.

Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley have issued a serious letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection questioning the abnormal behavior by CBP and demanding more information from CBP regarding these concerning developments against Iranian students in the United States and in particular in Massachusetts. This includes the spike in denying Iranian students entry and sending them back on expedited removal, as happened with Reihana.

We ask that Harvard continue to actively stand in solidarity with Reihana and support her and to pursue every legal and other avenue in making sure that she can return to the country. We demand that CBP rescind its 5-year ban on Reihana and allow her to return to the U.S. immediately so that she can continue her studies at Harvard University. We call on members of Congress to support Reihana in her return to the U.S. to begin her studies at Harvard Divinity School. 


Act on a Dream

Harvard Prison Divest Campaign

Harvard University Iranian Student Association

Harvard College's Society of Arab Students

Harvard College's Latinas Unidas

The Kuumba Singers of Harvard College

Harvard College Democrats

Harvard College Democrats for Warren

Harvard College Democrats for Bernie

Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM)

Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard

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