A night spent at the Federal Building

It is 11:00 p.m. on Jan. 24. It is a cold night. I am sitting with Sarfaraz Amin, a young Pakistani businessman, Quraish, an official from the Pakistan Embassy, and Riaz Jafri, a lawyer on the 10th floor of the Federal Building (The third floor office of the INS, where registrations occur, closes at 7:00 p.m.). We’re in a restricted area, but we have been given special permission to sit here waiting. We are waiting to hear about the outcome of the extended interview of four people by the FBI. They have been behind closed doors for more than four hours.

Sarfaraz Amin is a Good Samaritan who has come to the Federal Building almost every day to provide moral support to those who must endure the cold, the long lines and the anxiety. None of the three of us need to register, but we witnessed the process all day long. Of the four who are being interviewed, one had a non-Pakistani lawyer and spoke aggressively with the officials. He questioned everything. The officials put him in a temporary detention cell and told his companions that their friend needed to calm down. We noticed that lawyers are not allowed with anyone who has been called inside for further questioning.

Finally, the four emerged one by one. Two of them are a couple, she an American citizen. The third, Ali, had tears in his eyes. Nothing untoward had happened, but it was obviously a trying experience. The hot-headed guy came out, saw his lawyer and complained vociferously about his fingerprinting. The authorities had also issued him an NTA (Notice To Appear [in court]).

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