On 4 November 1979, a few months after I arrived in the US for my senior year of high school, radical Islamic students in Iran stormed the American embassy and took dozens captive, holding 52 hostages for 444 days. As part of its initial response, the US government adopted a comprehensive, disciplinary policy of tracking Iranian students in American high schools, colleges, and universities. Students like me were contacted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and told to report to ad hoc security centers to be interviewed, photographed, and fingerprinted. After enduring protracted interrogation sessions during which we were questioned about our religious beliefs and political views, the INS officers instructed us not to travel out of state without first obtaining permission from immigration authorities. Throughout those long, harrowing days of the...

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