Alireza Yazdani Esfidajani, an Iranian Ph.D. student at Michigan State University, was deported Monday after being detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at Detroit Metro Airport.
Ghazal Nicole Mehrani, Esfidajani’s attorney, told Michigan Radio he has a valid visa and permission from MSU to study at the university. Mehrani says CBP agents questioned him for six hours, and he was held overnight in a county detention center before his attorneys were able to see him.
“We’re seeing a trend,” Mehrani said. “As far as I know, this is the first one at DTW. And we have to know why, why Iranian students have been targeted specifically over the past six months.”
According to a statement from the CBP, a visa or participation in the visa waiver program does not guarantee entry to the country.
“On January 26, Alireza Yazdani Esfidajani applied for entry into the United States, and was later deemed inadmissible at which time he withdrew his application for admission into the United States,” the agency wrote. “The traveler was not arrested, rather held until a return flight could be arranged to his place of departure.”
The statement did not clarify why the student was denied admission into the United States.
MSU officials are working with members of the Michigan congressional delegation, federal support agencies and Mehrani to “help through this difficult situation.”
“We want international students to know we value and welcome them to our campus, and we are committed to global engagement, educating international students and collaborating with partners across the world in higher education efforts,” MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant wrote in a statement. “International students make tremendous contributions to fueling discoveries and scholarship. Global leadership can only be maintained if talented people from across the globe are encouraged to come here to study and work.”
In November, the Advance reported that some MSU were demanding that the administration declares it a sanctuary school and provide more support and resources for undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students.