Undocumented molecular biologist Syed Ahmed Jamal endured a day of turmoil Feb. 12, when a judge terminated his stay of deportation that morning, and ordered him to immediately leave the country.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement spokesman Carl Rusnok confirmed to India-West early afternoon: “Jamal is currently in ICE custody pending his removal to Bangladesh.”
But as he was on a flight en route to Honolulu, Hawaii, Jamal – a resident of Lawrence, Kansas who has lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years – received an 11th-hour reprieve from the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Virgina, which granted him a temporary stay of removal.
His attorney, Rekha Sharma, told reporters at a press conference that Jamal is being held in Honolulu; it is unclear when he will be returned to Kansas, where he lives with his wife and three children, who are all U.S. citizens. “Our hope is that he will soon be reunited with his family,” she said.
According to his attorneys and his brother – Syed H. Jamal – the Bangladeshi American was taken from the West Texas Detention Facility, in Sierra Blanca, Texas, early morning by El Paso Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents. He was taken to the airport, well before Judge Glen Baker in Kansas City Immigration Court had dissolved his stay of deportation.
“The flight could have taken off and he would have been out of the country before the judge issued his decision,” said his brother at the press conference, expressing his outrage that ICE had not followed due process.
“There is a rush to push people out of this country. He was scooped up without notice,” said Sharma, noting that for the better part of the day, she and Jamal’s family were unable to locate where he was; a detainee locator system still had him listed at the West Texas detention center.
“It’s unconscionable to do that to a family, to have children worry where their father is and whether they will ever be able to see him again,” added the Indian American attorney.
Sharma said it was “extraordinary” that BIA granted Jamal a stay on his immediate deportation, but added that his situation was still tenuous until he receives a final decision of his ability to stay in the U.S.
On Jan. 24, Jamal – who has lived in the U.S. since 1987 – was arrested in front of his home as he was preparing to take his daughter to school (see earlier India-West story here: http://bit.ly/2BIpZqT).
As his young daughter watched, Jamal was led away in handcuffs and initially taken to the Morgan County detention center in Versailles, Missouri. Later that week, he was transferred to the ICE detention center in West Texas.
An immigration judge granted Jamal a temporary stay of deportation Feb. 8; a day later, the Department of Homeland Security filed a motion to rescind the temporary stay of deportation. Jamal continued to be held in ICE custody.
Jamal holds graduate degrees in molecular biosciences and pharmaceutical engineering, and currently serves as an adjunct professor of chemistry at Park University in Parkville, Missouri. He has no criminal history.
In 2012, former ICE director John Morton issued a “prosecutorial discretion” memo, which authorized agents to prioritize deportations to those who posed an immediate danger to the country. Jamal was allowed to remain in the country, and was issued a work permit, with directives to check in periodically with ICE.
But despite the Morton memo – which has not been rescinded – Jamal was arrested, though his attorneys said he posed no danger to his community or the country.
“ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan has made clear that ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” noted the agency in an e-mailed statement forwarded to India-West.
Jamal’s brother told India-West that his brother came to the U.S. in 1987 to study at the University of Kansas. After his F-1 student visa expired, he went to Canada to get another F-1 visa, which was possible in those days, he said. He then returned to Bangladesh to secure an H-1B visa and worked for a few years before he was laid off, and had 60 days to leave the country. Jamal, who by this time had married and become a father, remained in the U.S. without immigration status.
Jamal’s wife, who came with her husband on an H-4 visa, lost her status when her spouse did. She also faces deportation, leaving the children at risk of being placed in foster care.
Taseen Jamal, the family’s oldest son, wrote a letter posted with a petition on the change.org Web site. Taseen’s letter is reprinted in full, below.
“Hello, my name is Taseen Jamal, and my father has recently been arrested, taken to the Morgan County, Mo., jail, and is being considered for deportation. My little brother cries every night, my sister can’t focus in school, and I cannot sleep at night. My mother is in trauma, and because she is a live organ donor, she only has one kidney, so the stress is very dangerous. She could die if he is deported.
“If my father is deported, my siblings and I may never get to see him again. He is an older man, and due to the conditions of his home country, he might not be able to survive. My father called us, and he was crying like a little child because he was thinking about what would happen to us if he got deported.
“We are the children of Syed Ahmed Jamal, and we are requesting on behalf of our family for your kind help to get back our father. A home is not a home without a father.”