Iranian Scientist Headed to Boston Children’s Hospital Detained at Logan Airport

Cancer researcher Mohsen Dehnavi and his family have been sent home.

Boston Children's

Photo by Alex Lau

Iranian cancer researcher Mohsen Dehnavi, who was on his way to Boston Children’s Hospital to work as a visiting scholar, was detained at Logan Airport and has now been sent home.

Dehnavi, according to STAT, had a visa issued in May allowing him to enter the United States. But fellow researcher Mohammad Rashidian told the site that Denhavi, his wife, and his three children were being detained. A few hours later, according to the Globe, they were sent back on the next available flight to Iran.

Later, reports emerged that Dehnavi may have been barred from the U.S. due to alleged ties to the Basij militia group, which is linked to Iran’s National Guard and human rights abuses.

Children’s, through a spokesman, says it “defers to the State Department with respect to security clearance for all visas” and that it “has no additional information about the basis for denying Dr. Denhavi [sic] entry to the U.S.” It also asserted that Dehnavi has never worked with the hospital before.

In a statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the expulsion of the Dehnavi family was not due to the President Trump’s ban on travel from a handful of mostly Muslim countries, which recently got Supreme Court approval to move forward. “This individual was deemed inadmissible to the US based on information discovered during the [customs] inspection for reasons unrelated to the Executive Order,” the statement says. “In order to demonstrate that they are admissible, the applicant must overcome ALL grounds of inadmissibility including health-related grounds, criminality, security reasons, public charge, labor certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements, and miscellaneous grounds.”

But concerns flared Tuesday, as the incident recalled the chaos and confusion that followed the roll-out of the first travel ban, when crowds gathered at Logan and elsewhere to protest detentions of visitors from countries targeted by the executive order.

Dehnavi’s case also came not long after the Supreme Court in late June ruled the ban—which calls for the exclusion of all refugees along with visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—could take effect at least until a full hearing on its Constitutionality in October. It was not supposed to apply to visitors with a “bona fide” connection in the U.S., either to an immediate family member or an institution like a hospital or university, so groups like the ACLU worried Customs was kicking out a family that had a right to be here.

The ACLU Tuesday tweeted that it is “hearing reports from Logan Airport about possible violations of the Supreme Court’s order on the Muslim ban,” and it offered a hotline for impacted families to use: 617-903-8943.

Trita Parsi, who is president of the National Iranian American Council, tweeted a picture of the Dehnavi’s visa along with an exasperated message: “What #MuslimBan is doing RIGHT NOW,” it reads, using a description of the ban that alleges it is designed to do what Trump promised to do on the campaign trail: ban followers of the Muslim faith from entering the U.S. “Harvard researcher at Children’s hospital (+3 kids) WITH VALID VISA about to be deported.”

Earlier this year, Massachusetts hospitals joined colleges, businesses, and other stakeholders in warning that sweeping travel bans would impact their efforts to recruit top talent from around the world.


This post has been updated.