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U.S. Deports Most of Those Arrested in Sweeps After 9/11
By SUSAN SACHS
As legal challenges to its policy of secret detentions advance slowly
through the courts, the government has managed to deport most of the
Sept. 11 detainees at the center of the lawsuits.
Some 1,200 South Asian and Arab men were arrested in sweeps after the
terrorist attacks, and 750 of them were ultimately detained on
immigration violations, the Justice Department said. As of four weeks
ago, when the latest head count was released, all but 74 had been expelled
to their home countries or, in a handful of cases, released to resume
their lives in the United States.
The government, citing national security concerns, has refused to
disclose the names of those foreigners it held in detention, including
the vast majority who were never charged with anything other than
overstaying a visa. It has also banned the public from the deportation
hearings of "special interest detainees" once it has finished
The secret detentions and secret hearings have been attacked in
federal lawsuits filed by civil liberties groups in Washington, D.C., New
Jersey and Michigan, and those cases continue to wend their way through
the judicial system.
"The fact that many of the so-called 9/11 detainees have been
deported in no way diminishes the significance of the current legal
challenges," said Lee Gelernt, a lawyer at the American Civil
Liberties Union, adding that some detainees are still affected by the
government's secrecy policies.
The group's lawsuits asked for the names of all detainees, whether
they were still in the country or not.
Federal district judges have ruled against the government's blanket
closing of hearings and refusal to release detainees' names. The Justice
Department prevailed in just one instance so far. The New Jersey Supreme
Court on Tuesday let stand an appellate decision against the disclosure
Civil liberties groups and Muslim-American organizations have
complained for months about the treatment of the foreigners picked up
after Sept. 11, the lack of information given to the prisoners' relatives
and the continued detention of people who had agreed to leave the
The pace of expulsions began to pick up in March, culminating in the
group deportation of 26 Pakistani detainees on a chartered aircraft on
They were among 131 Pakistanis who flew home together after being
gathered from detention centers around the country. In addition to the
Sept. 11 detainees, the passengers included 70 people who had ignored
previous deportation orders and 35 who had been charged with crimes.
The immigration service routinely organizes special flights, usually
once or twice a week, when large numbers of people from the same country
are being deported, said Karen Kraushauer, a spokeswoman for the I.N.S.
Other expulsions of the Sept. 11 detainees have been so abrupt that
family members did not know for days after the fact.
In the case of Ali Yaghi, a Jordanian detainee who had applied for
residency, his American wife and three children in Albany were never told
that he was deported to Jordan on June 24, after spending nearly nine
months in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn on an immigration
Mr. Yaghi has not been heard from since, raising fears in his family
that Jordan's security services may have been so suspicious about his
long detention that they arrested him upon arrival.
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