LULAC Warns Against Fear Of “The Other” Following Detentions

Washington, DC - The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) today decried this past weekend’s incident at the US-Canadian border at Washington State where hundreds of Iranian-American citizens were held for hours and subjected to questions including their views on the unfolding confrontation with Iran following the drone strike killing of an Iranian general.

“This is the latest example of a chilling and disturbing trend being fomented by this Administration based upon a xenophobic atmosphere of its own making,” says Sindy Benavides, National Chief Executive Officer. “LULAC understands the need for and has always supported the security of our nation. However, we must not allow the wholesale discarding of our constitutional protections as we have seen with asylum seekers and refugees from Latin American along our Southern Border and now, the unreasonable holding and questioning for hours of American citizens simply because they have ancestry from Iran,” she added.

Customs and Border Protection officials said Monday the stepped-up screenings are part of a heightened state of alert following threats by Iran that it would retaliate for the killing last Friday of Iranian General Qassim Suleimani in a U.S. drone airstrike in Iraq. However, attorneys for the Iranian-American citizens who were detained said the length of time and nature of questions to which the group was subjected proved they were being profiled simply because of their origin, not because there was any lawful basis for reasonable suspicion.

Those detained said the questions included being pressed for answers about their political and religious views and practices or if any relatives had served in the Iranian military. Several were also asked about their specific region of birth within Iran and what opinions they held about relations between the United States and Iran or whether they belong to any cult or Muslim Shiite organization. “Washington State is blessed to be a very diverse and robust region of the United States because we do embrace immigrants and all that they add to the very fabric of our communities,” said Diana Perez, LULAC State Director. “Iranian-American citizens are Americans plain and simple and they’re entitled to the same protections any other citizen enjoys when traveling to and from Canada. To subject men, women and even children born in the United States to hours of questioning because the perception is that they look different or sound different from someone else is a very dangerous precedent, one that LULAC will not allow to go silently unchallenged,” added Perez.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit