That the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani will reorder the Middle East is obvious — Iraq’s parliamentary vote to expel U.S. forces, along with Iran’s declared restarting of its nuclear arms program with “no limitations,” offers proof enough. But that the killing will have repercussions within the United States, rattling the lives and liberties of many U.S. citizens and residents, is also a strong possibility — one that’s no less ominous.
Already, there are harbingers of a potential crackdown on Iranian Americans. On Sunday, U.S. citizens of Iranian origin returning to the United States from Canada via the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Wash., were detained and questioned for up to 10 hours. Asked why, one was told by a border official, “This is a bad time to be an Iranian,” according to an official with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) who had talked with the travelers.
How “bad” might it get if hostilities with Iran accelerate? The legal foundations for punitive action against Iranian Americans already exist. Since 2001, the executive branch has stockpiled arguments for abrogating the liberties of “suspect” populations. In response, Congress and the courts have competed over which can be more quiescent. The net result is a legal landscape that could enable overreach and abuse by a president not only firmly committed to norm-breaking but with a history of demonizing minority populations.
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