An undocumented molecular biologist in Lawrence, Kansas, was arrested Jan. 24 in front of his home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, as he prepared to take his young daughter to school.
Bangladeshi American Syed Ahmed Jamal, a father of three who has lived in the U.S. since 1987, was led away in handcuffs. He is currently being held at the Morgan County detention center in Versailles, Missouri, and faces imminent deportation. 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.
Jamal’s attorney, Jeffrey Bennett, has filed an appeal for a stay of removal, which would allow the native of Dhaka to remain in the U.S. However, if the appeal is not granted, Jamal faces immediate deportation.
Jamal has three children, Taseen, 14; Naheen, 12; and Fareed, 7, all U.S. citizens. He was preparing to take Naheen to school when he was arrested, his brother, Syed H. Jamal, told India-West.
“This has been devastating to the family. The children are thinking they’re not going to be able to see their father for several years,” Bennett told India-West.
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.
In a statement forwarded to India-West, ICE said that Jamal had come to their attention after an arrest Sept. 11, 2012. The agency did not state why Jamal was arrested; Bennett said the only infraction he could find on his client’s record was a speeding ticket.
The ICE statement noted that the Board of Immigration Appeals had ruled against Jamal in 2013, dismissing his appeal of his removal order.
“To effect this removal order, deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Jamal outside his residence on Jan. 24, 2018. He is currently in ICE custody pending his removal to Bangladesh,” said the agency in the statement.
“ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. However, as ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” stated the agency.
The Morton memo has not been rescinded, noted Bennett. “This administration has decided to be very aggressive in their removal policy,” he said.
“Syed has made significant contributions to his community and our country. He is the byproduct of a broken immigration system that no one wants to fix. You cannot allow people to plant seeds in this country and then randomly uproot them,” Bennett told India-West, noting that if Jamal’s stay is denied, he could be deported immediately without notification to his family.
The attorney noted that President Donald Trump has advocated for a merit-based immigration policy, but nonetheless is deporting a professor with advanced STEM degrees.
Jamal’s brother Syed 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, if family members cannot care for them, according to Bennett.
Prosecutorial discretion allowed Jamal to receive a work permit in 2012.
The brother noted that Jamal had been told that he was a very low priority for deportation. But he was mandated to check in with ICE on a regular basis.
At his last check-in, Jamal was ordered to sign papers to obtain travel documents, according to his brother.
“Syed has lived here for 31 years. He has served on school boards, volunteers with the elderly, and at our mosque. He is an upstanding resident of his community,” said his brother.
“My brother is a Western-educated liberal Muslim. In Bangladesh, they are kidnapping professors every day. This could be his death sentence if he is sent back,” Syed H. Jamal, told India-West.
A gofundme page – https://www.gofundme.com/syedjamal — has been established to help the family. The page has raised more than $20,000 in three days.