A prominent Alberta biomedical engineer, who was born in Iran and holds a Canadian permanent resident card, said he was denied entry into the United States Saturday as confusion surrounding President Donald Trump’s immigration ban lingers.
Dr. Parsin Haji Reza, who works on cancer research and is part of the departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Alberta, said he and five colleagues from his research team were heading to the States to attend a biomedical engineering conference in San Francisco. They were scheduled to speak about their photoacoustic remote sensing system, which focuses on biomedical devices, particularly related to cancer imaging.
Haji Reza’s colleagues were able to board their flights but he said he was denied a boarding pass. He said he was travelling with his permanent residency card and a travel visa he obtained from the United States Consulate in Calgary prior to the trip.
“At the airport, unfortunately, they did not let me to pass through,” Haji Reza said Sunday. “They told me that because I was born in Iran I can’t pass through the airport.
“There was no other explanation. No documents, nothing written, no statement, no stamp on my passport, nothing. They just gave my passport back and said, ‘sorry, we can’t do anything.'”
Late last week, Trump signed an executive order restricting people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. The order put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travellers from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
Trump told reporters in the White House’s Oval Office on Saturday that his order was “not a Muslim ban” and said the measures were long overdue.
“It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over,” Trump said.
On Saturday, the U.S. State Department said Canadians with dual citizenship from any of the seven nations would be denied entry for the next three months along with citizens from those countries. However, later Saturday, an email from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office said that the U.S. has given assurances that Canadians with dual citizenship will not be turned away at the border.
On Sunday, Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the government is seeking clarification on the ban but added, “We’ve been assured by the White House that Canadian permanent residents with a valid Canadian permanent resident card and passport from those seven countries can still enter as before.”
Watch below: Canadians with dual citizenship from countries impacted by travel ban not affected, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said on Sunday.
Conflicting reports caused confusion for airlines struggling to deal with the order Saturday. Alberta immigration lawyer Raj Sharma admitted the rules surrounding the order are unclear.
“It’s muddy waters right now. Everything is a little bit unclear.”
Watch below: Immigration lawyer Raj Sharman weighs in on U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban on citizens from seven countries, and offers advice for those affected.
When asked about the confusion displayed by border guards who are trying to interpret the executive order, Canada’s national security advisor Daniel Jean said U.S. officials have committed to him that “some form of instructions would be put on the website of the state department.”
No information was provided on when the instructions would be available.
Haji Reza acknowledged it was “just a conference” he missed out on, expressing concern and worry over those who won’t be able to see their families in the United States. He said just because he was born in Iran doesn’t mean he, or anyone else, deserves this type of treatment.
“I think there are so many things in life that you don’t have control over, such as the first language you learn to speak, the place you are born, your skin colour. And some of this stuff is out of your control,” he said.
“If you want to judge someone, you have to look at the things he has or she has done, the choices,” he said.
“I think every human being deserves a chance to curate, create and find out who he or she wants to be and not judged for where he’s from or what skin colour he has or she has.”
Trump’s travel ban sparked protests across the United States on Saturday after immigrants and refugees were kept off their flights and left stranded at airports.
Watch below: Protests erupt at U.S. airports over Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Late Saturday night, a federal judge issued an emergency order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from the seven nations subject to Trump’s travel ban. The judge said travellers who had been detained had a strong argument that their legal rights had been violated. However, the court action does not reverse Trump’s order.
A spokesperson with Alaska Airlines, the carrier Haji Reza flew with, said “the agents followed the executive order issued by the White House and denied this passenger boarding and refunded his roundtrip ticket.”
“This is an enforcement issue all carriers, both U.S. and foreign, must comply with,” Ray Lane said in a statement to Global News.
The airline said its U.S. trade association, Airlines for America, remains in contact with federal officials regarding the executive order.
With files from Reuters.