A judge has granted a stay for Syed Jamal, according to his attorney. The chemistry professor and father of three faced deportation after his arrest in Lawrence in late January.
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- As Lawrence professor and father Syed Jamal waits from a Platte County jail cell to find out if he'll be deported, lawmakers from both sides of the state line are stepping in on his behalf.
Citizens are speaking up, too. A petition to stop Jamal's deportation has gotten nearly all of the 50,000 needed signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
"We're basically at the mercy of ICE," Jamal's brother, Khalid Jamal, told 41 Action News.
Jamal came to the U.S. from Bangladesh 31 years ago, and was working as an adjunct chemistry professor at Park University before his arrest. He planned to teach at St. Luke's Hospital this summer.
ICE officials arrested him in his front yard on Jan. 24. Jamal had previously overstayed his visa, but had permission to stay under supervision.
Although he represents a different district in a different state, Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver issued this statement to 41 Action News:
"I believe hard-working individuals like Mr. Syed Jamal are contributing members of this society and deserve a chance to remain in America. I am helping in every way I can to see him reunited with his wife and children."
Cleaver's office told 41 Action News Jamal's family and attorney asked him to help. Because it's an open case, they couldn't get into detail about why they called upon Cleaver.
Jamal's attorney, Rekha Sharma-Crawford, said he is very thankful Cleaver is stepping up for the family in their time of need.
"This is another American story turned into a nightmare by the current divisive climate regarding immigration," Sharma-Crawford said.
Jamal's brother said he's being treated this way even though he's tried to do everything right.
"Somebody doing the right thing -- who is teaching, who is in academia, who has three U.S. born children, who is building future leaders -- I feel like we cannot paint every single immigrant with the same brush," Khalid Jamal said.
Another of Jamal's attorneys, Jeffrey Bennett, filed a stay of removal on Monday, asking the Department of Homeland Security for protection. Bennett said Wednesday afternoon he is waiting to hear back.
The stay of removal is urging the judge to consider what risks Jamal would face if he went back to Bangladesh. As an ethic minority, Bennett argued, Jamal would be subject to extreme discrimination and even violence. In addition, Bennett said Jamal has no connection to Bangladesh and doesn't speak the local language.
Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder's office says he was "disturbed" with Jamal's story, and they've been in contact with ICE, "inquiring about what has caused Mr. Jamal to be a priority for removal if he hasn't committed any crimes in addition to overstaying his visa in 2011."
Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins's office said they are also in contact with ICE and USCIS, saying,"We are doing all we can to assist the family."
"He is basically teaching the future leaders of our country through his scientific knowledge and years of research," Khalid Jamal said on his brother's behalf.
Jamal has three children aged 14, 12, and 7.
Khalid said the kids can't focus on schoolwork, and can't sleep or eat.
"It'll be a terrible tragedy for the three kids," Khalid said, if Jamal is deported.
Despite the support seen on Wednesday, Syed Jamal’s family continued to worry about his future.
“It's exhausting. Every second is so uncertain,” explained Zaynaub Chowdhury, Jamal’s wife. “When I see my kids they are not the same. They're not eating properly. They're not sleeping properly. They're not doing homework properly. They're not going to school on time."
Chowdhury looked down at her wedding ring while talking with 41 Action News, not knowing when her husband’s deportation would come.
“The day we married until that day (of his arrest), we've never been apart. We were always together with every situation,” she explained. “I really want him to be back. I don't want to be apart from each other now."
After her husband was transferred to Platte County Jail on Wednesday, Chowdhury hoped help would come soon for her husband.
“I’m pleading the authorities, the senators and the congressmen if they can help me,” she explained. “My kids need their father. They deserve to have their father. The community also needs him."
Chowdhury gathered with a group of supporters on Wednesday at the Lawrence Arts Center, where organizers taped testimonials of why Jamal’s deportation should be stopped.
Jackson Barton, a senior at Lawrence Free State High School, helped film the interviews and said they would be added to the Change.org online petition page.
“I haven't seen as many people of such diversity come together to really band together on this one issue,” he explained. “This is just an opportunity for me go out and say, ‘Hey, we need to do this and we need to raise awareness for this issue.’”