An Iranian cancer researcher arriving in the United States to start work at a prominent Boston hospital was detained this week at Logan International Airport, the hospital said on July 11.
Boston Children's Hospital said that Mohsen Dehnavi was prevented from entering the country with his wife and three young children despite holding a J-1 visa for visiting scholars. They arrived at the airport on July 10.
U.S. officials said on July 11 that Dehnavi and his family had been put aboard a return flight to Iran.
The hospital said the reasons for the detention were unclear.
"Boston Children's hopes that this situation will be quickly resolved and Dr. Dehnavi and his family will be released and allowed to enter the U.S.," hospital spokesman Rob Graham said. "The hospital is committed to doing its utmost to support Dr. Dehnavi and his family."
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spokeswoman Stephanie Malin said the Dehnavi family's detention was for "reasons unrelated" to President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily barring visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran.
She said the stop was based on information discovered during the agency's review. She didn't elaborate, but she noted that visa applicants "bear the burden of proof" to meet all requirements and can be denied entry for a range of reasons, including health-related issues, criminality, or security concerns.
Susan Church, chair of the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said her group objected: "The rules say if you have a valid visa you have to be let in."
The Supreme Court recently ruled the Trump administration could largely enforce its temporary ban on travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. But the court said the ban can't block people with a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."
The Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the D.C.-based National Iranian American Council, which have both gotten involved in helping the Dehnavis, voiced concerns on July 11, suggesting their detention might be a violation of the Supreme Court order.
"The family is very worried," said Shayan Modarres, a lawyer for the council. "If it is a minor paperwork issue, then something needs to be told to the family so they can resolve it."
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a Democrat, told reporters he was waiting to hear more about the Dehnavis' circumstances, but also suggested the case was an example of concerns with the travel ban.
"Many people, doctors and nurses and people who are students working in the world-class institutions that we have are going to be boxed out or left out of the country," he said.
With reporting by AP and Reuters