An Iranian cancer researcher traveling to the U.S. to work as a visiting scholar at Boston Children’s Hospital has been detained with his wife and three children at Boston Logan International Airport.
The researcher, Mohsen Dehnavi, holds a visiting work visa that was issued in May. His detainment comes just two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration could largely enforce an executive order that would ban people from six Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from entering the U.S. The court also ruled that the ban couldn’t apply to visitors who already held valid visas.
A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection told STAT that the decision to deny the family entry into the U.S. was for reasons unrelated to the executive order. Dehnavi — along with his wife and three children, ages 6, 3, and 7 months — will be sent back to Iran on the next scheduled flight from Boston, the spokesperson said.
Dehnavi was traveling to the U.S. on a J-1 visa, which is issued to researchers and other academics who are participating in visiting scholar programs.
“Boston Children’s hopes that this situation will be quickly resolved and Dr. Dehnavi and his family will be released and allowed to enter the U.S.,” Rob Graham, a spokesperson for the hospital, said in a statement to STAT.
Mohammad Rashidian, a Boston Children’s Hospital researcher and friend of Dehnavi’s, said airport officials told him that family would need to speak to the State Department to complete additional paperwork to be allowed into the U.S.
“I don’t really know what the source of the problem is,” said Rashidian, who was supposed to pick the family up from the airport on Monday afternoon. Dehnavi texted him to say they he and his family had arrived and were waiting in line to have their visas checked. Rashidian hasn’t heard from them since.
“They were so worried,” he said.
When Trump’s initial travel ban was put in place in January, some foreign researchers from the affected countries were prevented from traveling to work in the U.S. Samira Asgari, an Iranian postdoctoral fellow who was slated to join a lab in Boston, wasn’t allowed to board her flight in January. Another Iranian scientist, Seyed Soheil Saeedi Saravi, had his visa suspended just days before his was set to travel to the U.S. for a research fellowship at Harvard.
Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, tweeted a picture of Dehnavi’s visa Tuesday morning.
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) July 11, 2017
Boston Children’s Hospital said it is “doing its utmost” to support Dehnavi and his family. Rashidian also reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Iranian American Council for assistance.
This story was updated with a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.