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Life After 9/11: One Young Arab Gets Thrown in US Jail

A recent piece in the New York Magazine chronicles the nightmarish journey of a young Arab immigrant. After September 11, Rasha found herself in jail with her family. Rasha's story sheds light on a darker side of national security.

At five-years-old Rasha moved with her family from Syria to the United States on a tourist visa. When she was in the sixth grade, after years of trying to get permanent residency, and failing, Rasha and her family moved back to Syria. Eventually she would get her Brooklyn life back, after her family was finally granted their green-cards. But the joy didn't last forever.

In February 2002, fifteen US officers awoke Rasha and her family in the middle of the night — Rasha's family was being investigated for terrorist connections. Once in a holding cell, officials questioned each family member in a separate room. To find out what happened next,


After a few days of this treatment, Rasha's father begged the FBI agent to deport the family. Instead, INS detained the family until they completed their investigation. After three months of detention, the family was unexpectedly and quickly released, allowed to live their lives as before, but with new fears. Rasha, having missed school, received Fs on her report card, and having missed mortgage payments, the family had to sell their home. The New York Magazine gives a detailed account of the family's stay in prison and the recovery process after their release.

Lucky for Rasha and her family, their lawyer and other family members advocated for their release. But many others, who were arbitrarily detained, stayed longer or were deported following September 11. Without an understanding of what people like Rasha have gone through, can we accurately assess America's national security policy?


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