Syed Jamal, the Lawrence resident detained by immigration authorities for overstaying his visa, was returned to the Kansas City area on Wednesday after the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia stayed his deportation.
Early Tuesday morning, Jamal had been moved by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from a staging area in El Paso, Texas, to Honolulu, Hawaii. But the board’s action prevented them from deporting Jamal to his native Bangladesh, and around 2:30 Wednesday afternoon he was returned to Kansas City and held in the Platte County Jail.
At a news conference outside the jail late Wednesday afternoon, Rekha Sharma-Crawford, Jamal’s attorney, said she hoped ICE would see fit to release Jamal, a married father of three who has not seen his family since ICE agents seized him in front of his Lawrence home on the morning of Jan. 24.
“Although ICE at this point, as late as 4:30, had indicated that it was their intent to keep him detained until the board of immigration appeals has ruled,” Sharma-Crawford said. “However, Mr. Jamal now has a private bill that has been sponsored and put forth by Congresswoman (Lynn) Jenkins. He has a valid work authorization document that is valid until October of 2018 and he’s been on an order of supervision for the past six years. And with no criminal history whatsoever, it really doesn’t make sense for them to continue to hold him.”
The bill sponsored by Rep. Jenkins, a Republican who represents Jamal’s district, would grant Jamal lawful permanent residence in the United States.
Jamal’s wife and three children, along with his brother Syed Hussain Jamal, attended the news conference. They were joined by about a dozen friends and supporters from the Lawrence area.
“It’s a bit surreal just to know ICE is basically playing God and can do whatever it wants,” said Jamal’s 14-year-old son Taseen. “Just being close to him, it’s a good feeling.”
Since his arrest on Jan. 24, ICE has shuffled Jamal to detention facilities in Platte County; Versailles, Missouri; El Paso; Honolulu; and Platte County again.
Jamal has lived in the United States for 31 years and recently taught chemistry at Park University. His children were all born in the United States.
Until his abrupt arrest, immigration officials had allowed him to work under an order of supervision as long as he periodically checked in with them. He was seized while preparing to take his daughter to school. Since then, thousands of people have signed a petition seeking his release.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.