Today, CCR Senior Staff Attorney Rachel Meeropol is arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in CCR’s case, Ziglar v. Abbasi (formerly Turkmen v. Ashcroft). Filed against Bush administration officials for the post-9/11 round ups of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men and the last case heard under the Obama administration, in Abbasi the Court will decide whether high-level government officials can be sued for implementing clearly unconstitutional policies. Below, an Abassi client, Purna Raj Bajracharya, shares his experience of racial and religious profiling, imprisonment, abuse, and deportation.
What are some positive memories of your life in the United States?
It’s a great country with much freedom. I used to work and keep myself busy. I was happy that I could earn a living and feed my family, give them a better life. Though the distance and the memories were hard to deal with.
What were some of your favorite activities or hobbies during that time?
In my free time, I used to see movies in the theater. I took photographs and videos; I wanted my family to see them and know how big America is. I loved to roam around and explore places. Sometimes cooking for friends made me happy.
What would you want people to know about the hardships you faced while you were in detention?
I do not want to remember those days—it was a terrible nightmare for me. Mentally and physically, I suffered in such a way that I was in hell. Even today, if I feel and go back in those days, I get very disturbed and restless.
How did it feel to be targeted by the U.S. government just because of your background, religion, or the way that you looked?
Very sad, terrible, and pathetic. I was helpless. Overstaying my visa was my mistake and I could not convince them I was otherwise innocent, though I cried and cried and cried. Nobody was there to listen my voice.
What was life like when you returned home? What were some of the challenges?
I could not explain it in words. I faced a lot of problems. I had to bring up my children and I had no resources.
What is your life like now? Have there been positive developments? Do you still face challenges?
Days are better comparatively. My sons are working and earning for the family now.
Why do you think this lawsuit is important? What would you like to see happen as a result of this lawsuit?
It is not only because of me. There are so many people who, though they were innocent, suffered a lot mentally and physically. Of course, we have to win.