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Muslims recall questionable detentions that followed 9/11 – The Denver Post – Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado 2021-10-04 09:26:36 –

WASHINGTON — Around New York City in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, as an eerie quiet settled over ground zero, South Asian and Arab men started vanishing.

Soon, more than 1,000 were arrested in sweeps across the metropolitan area and nationwide.

Most were charged only with overstaying visas and deported back to their home countries. But before that happened, many were held in detention for months, with little outside contact, especially with their families. Others would live with a different anxiety, forced to sign what was effectively a Muslim registry with no idea what might follow.

While the remembrances and memorials of 9/11′s 20th anniversary slip into the past, hundreds of Muslim men and their families face difficult 20-year anniversaries of their own.

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In the attacks’ aftermath, the immigrant advocacy group Desis Rising Up and Moving, or DRUM, anticipated a rise in hate crimes and harassment. So it set up a hotline and placed flyers primarily in South Asian neighborhoods.

“We started getting calls from women saying, ‘Last night, law enforcement busted into our apartment and took my husband and my brother.’ Children calling us and saying, ‘My father left for work four days ago and he hasn’t come home, and we haven’t heard anything,’” executive director Fahd Ahmed recalls.

“There were people who were just disappearing from our communities,” he says, “and nobody knew what was happening to them or where they were going.”

They were, according to the 9/11 Commission report, arrested as “special interest” detainees. Immigration hearings were closed, detainee communication was limited and bond was denied until the detainees were cleared of terrorist connections. Identities were kept secret.

A review conducted by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General said the Justice Department’s “hold until cleared” policy meant a significant percentage of the detainees stayed for months despite immigration officials questioning the legality of the prolonged detentions and even though there were no indications they were connected to terrorism. Compounding that, they faced “a pattern of physical and verbal abuse” particularly at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York. Conditions were, the report said, “unduly harsh.”

Detainees were swept up a myriad of ways, the report said. Three were stopped on a traffic violation and found with school drafting plans. Their boss explained they were working on a construction project and were supposed to have them, but authorities arrested and detained them anyway. Another was arrested because he seemed too anxious to buy a car.

Although many of those who were held had come into the U.S. illegally or overstayed visas, “it was unlikely that most if not all” would have been pursued if not for the attack investigation, the report said.

Noreen Nasir, The Associated Press

In this Sept. 20, 2021, photo Rachel Meeropol, senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who filed a lawsuit in 2002 on behalf of several of the men who were detained and ultimately deported after Sept. 11, poses for a photo in the Brooklyn borough of New York. In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks more than 1,000 South Asian and Arab men were arrested in sweeps across the New York City metropolitan area and nationwide. Most were charged only with overstaying visas and deported back to their home countries. But before that happened, many were held in detention for months, with little outside contact, especially with their families.

The “blunderbuss approach” of rounding up Muslims and presuming there would be terrorists among them was “pure racism and xenophobia in operation,” says Rachel Meeropol, senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who filed a lawsuit in 2002 on behalf of several of the men and continues to fight for additional plaintiffs to this day.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that it didn’t work,” Meeropol says. “Of course, what it did do was destroy whole communities and not to mention the lives of all the individuals rounded up.”

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Yasser Ebrahim, an original plaintiff in the lawsuit, was at a shop in his neighborhood and noticed people intently watching the television. “I saw these images on the screen, and for a moment there was like some kind of a movie or something,” he recalls. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

Muslims recall questionable detentions that followed 9/11 – The Denver Post Source link Muslims recall questionable detentions that followed 9/11 – The Denver Post

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