New Mexico agency asks Iranian group about suspicious acts
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Homeland Security officials recently asked an Iranian American cultural group in the state if they’ve seen any suspicious activities — an inquiry the group president said raises eyebrows.
Iranian Cultural Society of New Mexico President Azadeh Mehrnoush told The Associated Press the agency sent the group an email and asked them to report unusual episodes to authorities amid tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
The Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said in a statement that they wanted to make sure that they were engaged with community representatives in case any issues develop around threats or hate crimes.
But Mehrnoush said she didn’t feel the email was an attempt to check on New Mexico Iranian Americans about discrimination but rather seek information about nefarious actions by Iranian Americans.
“Why wouldn’t we report something if we saw something?” said Mehrnoush, 56, who came to the U.S. before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. “I found it odd.”
The Iranian Cultural Society of New Mexico describes itself online as a nonprofit organization with no affiliation or attachment to any special interest religious or political group.
“The membership is voluntary and consists of Iranians residents of New Mexico who are desiring to support the advancement of (the) Iranian community, cultural activities and abide by the society bylaws,” the group website reads.
The email comes as Iranian Americans are reporting episodes of discrimination as the U.S. and Iran trade threats and military strikes.
Earlier this week, civil rights groups and lawmakers demanded information from federal officials following reports that dozens of Iranian Americans were held up and questioned at the border as they returned to the United States from Canada over the weekend.
The Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said more than 60 Iranians and Iranian Americans were detained and questioned for hours at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Washington. The delays followed security warnings that Iran might retaliate for President Donald Trump’s decision to kill a top Iranian general last week.
Russell Contreras is a member of The Associated Press’ race and ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/russcontreras