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Woman says Iranian sister detained at PDX; ACLU says she was taken to jail

Alia Ghandi. (Contributed Photo)

A local woman went to pick up her sister at the airport Tuesday afternoon, but told KATU News her sister was denied entry even though she had a tourist visa.

"I'm in shock. How can they treat us like that?" Leila Ahranjani said. "Imagine you want to go visit a country, you get off the plane, you're excited to see your nieces after 5, 6 years and then they take her."

Ahranjani says her sister, Alia Ghandi, had been approved for a tourist visa a few weeks ago. The plan was for Ghandi to visit family in the Portland-area for four to five weeks, then return to Iran where she was set to finish a project for her work as an architect.

Mat dos Santos, the legal director of ACLU Oregon, tweeted that U.S. Customs and Border Protection took her to a county jail in The Dalles.

Ahranjani says she thinks her sister froze up after being questioned by U.S. Customs and Border officers at Portland International Airport, and that something got lost in translation.

"(The officer) started asking me very weird questions about if my sister wants to take care of my kids here," Ahranjani said. "I said, 'No, my kids are older now. She just wants to visit us.'"

Hours later Ahranjani says officials called back to tell her that her sister had been denied access to the United States. Ahranjani says she's been told her sister is now scheduled for a flight to Amsterdam Wednesday afternoon.

Ahranjani reached out for help, contacting the ALCU of Oregon, as well as her elected representatives.

KATU has reached out to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and have yet to hear back.

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