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Northeastern University student from Iran faces possible deportation

More than 50 people gathered at Logan Airport to protest the detainment of Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein.Jeremy C. Fox for the Boston Globe

An Iranian student planning to enter Northeastern University for the spring semester was detained at Logan International Airport by immigration officials and a hearing will be held Tuesday in federal court to determine his status, according to lawyers and the university.

Attorneys for Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein, 24, filed an emergency petition Monday night to block his deportation and allow him attend the university. They are set to go before a judge at 10 a.m. at US District Court in Boston.

“He went through an extensive processing period before he came back, which means that overseas investigators investigate his family, they speak to employers, they do a very thorough investigation,” said Susan Church, one of his attorneys.


In a statement, Northeastern said it was aware of Dehghani’s situation and had reached out to federal officials for more information “and to provide our student with the appropriate assistance to facilitate a successful return to Northeastern.”

Dehghani’s detainment drew more than 50 protesters to the international arrivals gate at the airport to call for his release. Some chanted “Let Shahab in,” and “Stop deporting students.”

Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein.Handout

Customs and Border Protection did not give a reason for blocking Dehghani’s entry into the country, according to his attorneys, and the agency did not allow the lawyers to speak to him directly.

A spokesman for the agency said he could not discuss a specific case because of privacy laws but provided a statement about the agency’s work.

“CBP officers are charged with enforcing not only immigration and customs laws, but they also enforce over 400 laws for 40 other agencies and have stopped thousands of violators of U.S. law,” he said in an e-mail.

According to the legal filing, Dehghani was admitted to Northeastern for the 2018-2019 academic year and submitted his visa application in 2018. After a background check that took nearly a year, the State Department issued Dehghani a student visa last week, the petition says.


Dehghani “does not pose any threat of terrorist activity and has no criminal record in any country,” the filing states. “It is unclear why [Customs and Border Protection] would now decide, after conducting a full visa issuance process, that Plaintiff’s student visa should be revoked.”

Monday night’s airport protest came together after his friends discussed how to respond to his detainment.

Mehran Dibaji, 33, said he first met Dehghani in 2016, when Dehghani was studying at University of Massachusetts Boston. “I remember last year he told us, ‘I can’t stay anymore. I have to visit my family,’ ” Dibaji said, adding later that his family wasn’t notified by US officials that he was detained and instead found out through his friends in Boston.

Omar Rashed, a close friend, said in an interview that Dehghani “is a very wonderful, kind, and gentle spirit.” When Dehghani previously lived in Boston, he said, “he volunteered in the community and helped out a lot with events. He was always the first one to show up and the last one to leave.”

“He has a valid visa . . . and he went back to visit home, and now he can’t come back?” said Rashed, 32, of Malden. “He got an apartment, he did everything he’s supposed to do, he followed all the rules, he jumped through all the hoops. . . . It’s injustice. And today is Martin Luther King Day, of all days. Does anyone see the irony in this?”


Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Customs and Border Protection allowed Dehghani to speak with his attorneys. They did not.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.