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WCBS 880 9/11 Series: Defending The Detainees

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) - While investigators searched for terrorists, a civil rights lawyer and her colleagues have been very busy over the past decade defending immigrants swept up in post-9/11 raids who turned out to be innocent.

WCBS 880's Monica Miller On The Story


It was Rachel Meeropol's first case out of NYU law school.

The attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights says her first client was a Turkish man whose landlady reported him to the FBI shortly after the attacks.

RELATED: WCBS 880 Presents 9/11 – Ten Years Later

"[She indicated] that she rented her apartment to several Middle Eastern men, that they were good tenants and they paid their rent on time, but they were Middle Eastern and if they turned out to be terrorists and she didn't say anything, she would feel terrible," Meeropol told WCBS 880 reporter Monica Miller.

Meeropol says, based on that single piece of information, he was sent to a detention center for five months before being deported.

Meeropol reached a $1.2 million settlement two years ago with the U.S. government for roughly a half dozen men like her first client.

Many of these detained were held over minor immigration violations.

"The had overstayed their visa. Maybe they were working without papers," said Meeropol.

It's unclear how many people were detained after the attacks.

Her clients reported being tortured and held in maximum confinement before being deported.

"Estimates are about 1,200, I believe, across the country. Nobody was charged with anything in connection to 9/11 of that group," she said.

Her passion for prisoners' rights stems from what happened to her own family as the granddaughter of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

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