ICE arrests Kansas professor and father of three who has been in the U.S. for 30 years

by Elizabeth Chuck /  / Updated 

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A Kansas professor and father of three who has lived in the United States for three decades was detained by immigration agents and now faces deportation.

Syed Ahmed Jamal, who is from Bangladesh, was about to take his daughter to school on Jan. 24 when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials showed up on his front lawn in Lawrence, Kansas, and arrested him, said his brother, Syed Hussain Jamal.

"It wasn't expected. He never expected to have ICE there," said the brother, who lives in Phoenix.

When Jamal's stunned wife tried to hug her husband goodbye, ICE agents stopped her, telling her "that they would arrest her for interference" if she didn't let them take him immediately, the brother said.

Jamal, 55, is a chemistry instructor who entered the U.S. lawfully on an international student visa in the 1980s, according to a lawyer for the family, Jeffrey Y. Bennett. He has three children — ages 7, 12, and 14 — all of whom are U.S. citizens, and he has no record, other than a couple of speeding tickets that have long been resolved, Bennett said.

The arrest is "very traumatizing for the whole family," Bennett said.

Jamal has a "long history" of trying to get a path to U.S. citizenship, Bennett added. Throughout the years, he had a handful of student visas while pursuing graduate degrees in science and engineering, and then a H-1B visa for highly skilled workers; at the time of his detainment, he had overstayed a voluntary departure notice, but had been granted permission to stay in the U.S. under supervision.

The family was aware that there was a slight risk that Jamal, who had been given prosecutorial discretion to indefinitely stay in the U.S. under a policy formalized by President Barack Obama, could face deportation. But they never expected it would actually happen; his brother and attorney said Jamal is a beloved community member who was involved in his children's school board and was a respected professor.

The detainment echoes similar cases since President Donald Trump took office last year, including that of a Michigan father who had been living in the U.S. for three decades and was deported last month to Mexico.

Jamal is being held more than 150 miles away from his home, at the Morgan County Detention Center in Missouri.

In a statement, ICE said that he had overstayed a temporary visa in the past and disobeyed a judge's order to leave the country.

The agency added that "Jamal came to ICE’s attention in September 2012. Based on an active ICE arrest warrant, he was transferred to ICE custody Sept. 11, 2012, from the Johnson County (Kansas) Jail."

Bennett, Jamal's attorney, could not confirm details of that detainment. But he insisted his client had no criminal history, save for speeding tickets.

Image: Syed Ahmed Jamal, seen with his three kids, was arrested the lawn of his Kansas home on Jan. 24.
Syed Ahmed Jamal, seen with his three kids, was arrested the lawn of his Kansas home on Jan. 24.Courtesy of Jamal family

The ICE statement continued: "He was released from ICE custody on an order of supervision in November 2012. On May 21, 2013, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed Jamal’s appeal of his removal order."

Jamal's brother denied that there were criminal charges issued in 2012, and said Jamal was pulled over for a traffic stop in 2012 — "that's all."

A Change.org petition asking ICE for a stay of removal for Jamal had collected more than 32,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon, and a GoFundMe had raised more than $24,000 to help the family with legal fees.

In a letter shared on the family attorney's website, Jamal's oldest child, Taseen, wrote that since his father's arrest, "My little brother cries every night, my sister can’t focus in school, and I cannot sleep at night."

"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," Taseen wrote.

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