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‘We are tourists, not terrorists’: Iranian-Canadian speaks out after detention at U.S. border

U.S./Iran dispute hits U.S./Canada border
WATCH: The dispute between the U.S. and Iran is affecting travel for many people trying to cross the U.S border. Linda Aylesworth spoke to one man who was questioned for nearly 10 hours.

An Iranian-Canadian man is speaking out about the treatment he says he and his family received at the U.S. border, as tensions escalate between the United States and Iran.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said more than 60 Iranians and Iranian-Americans were detained at length at the Peace Arch Border over the weekend, in the wake of the U.S.’ targeted killing of Iran’s top military commander.

North Vancouver resident Sam Sadr, who’s been a Canadian citizen for two years, said the number was more like 100 people, including U.S. citizens and Canadian Nexus pass holders.

READ MORE: Iranians held up at U.S.-Canadian border amid escalating political tensions, group says

Sadr, along with his parents and family, were headed south for a surprise trip to visit Washington state on Saturday, when they were held for more than eight hours, he told Global News.

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“It was very boring. Finally one of the ladies she brought some snacks, water over for the people,” Sadr said.

“There was only one washroom; you had to line up. Kids were crying.”

He said border officials picked his family out of the line when they saw the Iranian birthplaces on their passports.

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Officials, he said, asked him detailed questions about his birthplace, high school and university — a line of questioning he believes meant agents were looking for connection to elite schools attended by leaders’ families or Hezbollah members.

“They questioned me, sometimes my dad, sometimes my family,” he said. “Have you been in the military? Does your family belong to terrorism? Politics.”

READ MORE: ‘We were anxious’: Iranian family says they were held at U.S.-Canada border for hours

Eventually, border agents let the family into the U.S., but they returned back to Canada upset about the questioning after about an hour.

“We are tourists, not terrorists,” Sadr said, noting that he grew up and did all of his schooling in Japan.

“I was just born in Iran, that’s it. Did I work for the government? Did I do terrorist things? No. Why us? Why innocents?”

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection has denied that there was a national order issued to detain anyone with Iranian heritage.

“Social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false,” stated the agency.

“Reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are also false.”

It was a claim Washington state Governor Jay Inslee had little time for Monday, issuing a terse statement saying CBP’s denial was “simply not credible.”

“There are multiple firsthand accounts of CBP agents seizing people’s passports while they waited for up to 12 hours for re-entry into the United States,” wrote Inslee.

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“By all accounts, this is detention, regardless of whether the waiting area has bars on the windows.”

In the meantime, the Saturday incident has soured Sadr on returning to the U.S.

“If peace not come back, I never set foot in the U.S.,” he said. “Peace, peace, peace. We don’t want a war to start again.”