Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program filed a lawsuit against the federal government on April 27, alleging an incoming Harvard Medical School fellow was unlawfully denied entrance to the United States.
In addition to the lawsuit — which named U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas among the defendants — the Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program filed a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Iranian-born Maryam Shamloo, a Canadian citizen, first attempted to enter the United States on April 2, 2021 to begin her fellowship at Harvard Medical School on May 1. A diabetes researcher, Shamloo applied to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in July 2020 and was accepted for the two-year post from a pool of 200 candidates.
Per a press release, her attempt to enter the U.S. in 2021 was marked by “discriminatory and demeaning treatment” by Customs and Border Control, which the lawsuit alleges denied entry to Shamloo and her husband “because they were both born in Iran.”
“Ultimately, the family was denied entry due to baseless accusations that they intended to permanently reside in the US when in fact their entire lives, including their house, assets, and jobs, are in Canada,” the press release reads.
On April 18, 2021, Shamloo tried to enter the U.S. for a second time without her husband and children, where she was yet again denied entry.
Canadian citizens are typically not required to obtain visas to visit or study in the U.S., but Shamloo was told by customs officials to “apply for a visa as all Iranians must do,” per the complaint. Agents also allegedly questioned Shamloo about her Iranian background, asking if she was trained as a spy and demanding she read a document in Arabic — a language she does not speak.
Despite applying for a visa after being denied entry, Shamloo has yet to receive one, though the time the U.S. deems an acceptable waiting period, 180 days, has long passed. Her visa is in an “indefinite state of administrative processing at the US Consulate in Calgary, Canada,” the lawsuit says.
The Law School clinic called on the federal government to provide Shamloo with a visa as soon as possible.
The Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties did not immediately respond for comment.