U.S. immigration officials have detained an Iranian cancer researcher who was headed to a prominent Boston hospital to work as a scholar, hospital officials said Tuesday.
The detention late Monday of Moshen Dehnavi, along with his wife and three children, was apparently unrelated to President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travelers from six majority-Muslim countries, according to Boston Children’s Hospital and immigration law specialists. They noted that Dehnavi had a valid entry visa.
“He and his family are being detained at Logan [International Airport and] are supposed to be sent back to Iran later today,” hospital spokesman Rob Graham said in a statement. “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.”
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a revised version of Trump’s executive order banning travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, though the court excluded visitors with a “bona fide” family tie. The executive order itself did not apply to travelers with valid visas.
A spokesman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
“Based on what we know, it’s not travel-ban-related,” said Susan Church, chair of the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “The rules say if you have a valid visa, you have to be let in.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had called for a “complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States, a move he said was necessary to protect national security in the wake of attacks at home and abroad by Islamist extremists.
Opponents of the idea called it a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s protections for free expression of religion.
Trump’s initial January version of the order, which also applied to Iraq, caused a weekend of chaos at U.S. airports as travelers were turned away upon arrival and thousands of people turned out to protest the move.