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Lawyer: Northeastern Student’s Deportation a Case of Mistaken Identity

Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi of Iran was returning to Boston for school when he was denied entry to the U.S. on Monday

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A Northeastern University student from Iran who was deported on Monday was denied entry because he allegedly has familial connections to individuals "intricately involved" in a U.S. designated terrorist organization, federal law enforcement sources told NBC News.

But a lawyer for Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi said the federal government say the man in question has the same name as the student's father but is not him.

"It’s a mistake, they’re thinking of the wrong man," the lawyer, Susan Church, told NBC10 Boston.

Dehghani was held at Boston Logan International Airport after authorities denied his entry into the country, according to court documents. The 24-year-old student was returning to Boston to school, but was deported to France, the American Civil Liberties Union Massachusetts said.

Federal law enforcement officials briefed on the matter told NBC News that in cases like this one, students are denied entry into the U.S. because they have familial connections to individuals "intricately involved" in a U.S. designated terrorist organization. Law enforcement officials did not cite any alleged connections between U.S.-designated terrorist organizations and Dehghani himself.

The law enforcement officials said these denials of entry are rare and are based on their due diligence and are "for the safety of the public."

The Northeastern University student facing deportation is due in court.

The student’s lawyers, the university and local chapter of the ACLU worked on Monday and early Tuesday for his release.

“This is a young man who was given a visa,” said Carol Rose, ACLU Massachusetts Executive Director said Monday. “He is a Northeastern University student. He’s trying to come back to go to school and why he’s suddenly detained and being held without access to his lawyers who are trying to reach him is really of concern.”

Officials at Northeastern "have not received a satisfactory explanation from Customs and Border Protection" about Dehghani's deportation, a lawyer for Northeastern said in a statement Tuesday. She added that the university's lawyers have been working with the student's lawyers, talking to local members of Congress and trying to reach him.

“Northeastern welcomes thousands of international students and supports them with an array of resources,” Northeastern spokeswoman Renata Nyul said in a statement.

Dehghani's attorneys said in court documents that he was admitted to start in the 2018-2019 academic year, applied for a student visa in 2018 and was issued a student visa a week ago.

A federal judge issued an emergency stay of Dehghani's removal Monday, but a judge said Tuesday it was moot since he had taken a flight out of the country that night. He was flown to France.

Dehghani's attorneys say they are weighing legal options but slammed U.S. Customs and Border Protection for deporting him.

"We feel this is a pattern of customs and border protection, ignoring court orders, ignoring the laws," attorney Kerry Doyle said.

Dehghani is "understandably upset," said another attorney, Heather Yountz, about having been denied entry to the country where he's been studying for two years already, first at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

At Northeastern, he has been working toward a bachelor's degree in economics and mathematics and had a valid, F-1 student visa, according to the university.

"For sure, I can say he was no harm to anybody," said friend Amir Tohidi, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, noting that he already passed a nearly year-long security check to obtain his student visa.

"The thing that is annoying is this seems so arbitrary, so uncertain. It depends on the people at the airport," he said.

The CBP said it is not at liberty to discuss a person’s processing due to the Privacy Act.

Dehghani’s entry denial sparked a protest Monday evening in which at least a dozen people showed up at Logan to voice their support for him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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