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TIMELINE: The Legal Odyssey Of Syed Jamal, The Lawrence Man ICE Wants To Deport

Courtesy Sharma-Crawford Attorneys At Law
Syed Jamal in detention in El Paso, Texas, before ICE agents put him on a plane to Bangladesh.

The threat of deportation has made Lawrence resident Syed Jamal an international cause celebre. On Monday, the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia granted a stay in his case, preventing immigration enforcement officials from deporting him to his native Bangladesh.

Jamal’s legal saga offers an illustration of the U.S. immigration system’s perils for people whose fate depends on the discretion of government officials making judgments in the context of an administration’s political priorities.

Syed Jamal's Immigration Timeline

August 1987

Jamal arrives in the United States to attend University of Kansas and later Rockhurst University on a student visa.

December 2001

Jamal receives a master’s degree in biochemical pharmacology after attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City on a new student visa.

July 2002

After overstaying his visa, Jamal voluntarily departs for Bangladesh and legally reenters the U.S. three months later on a nonimmigrant H-1B visa.


Jamal works at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City on his H-1B visa.


Jamal obtains an extension of his H-1B visa, which allows him to remain in U.S. through mid-2008.


Jamal attends the University of Kansas on another student visa to pursue a degree in molecular science.

September 2008

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials say they mistakenly approved a change of status application Jamal filed after leaving Children’s Mercy Hospital.


Jamal's brother, a U.S. citizen, files a family-based petition for Jamal that's approved in 2010. Because of visa backlogs, however, he is still not eligible to apply for permanent residence based on the petition.


Jamal applies for employment-based permanent residency based on his education and professional skills. It's denied in 2010.


After Jamal is stopped for speeding, local police turn him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which begins removal proceedings against him because he overstayed his visa.


An immigration judge advises him that he will have to leave the country. When the deadline passes and Jamal has not left, the court orders his removal.


ICE opts not to seek his removal. Even so, he is arrested and detained from Sept. 11, 2012, to Nov. 6, 2012. After deciding that he was neither a flight risk nor a threat to the community, the Department of Homeland Security allows him to be released under an order of supervision. That allows him to live and work in the United States as long has he periodically checks in with DHS. His most recent employment card was valid until October 2018.

Jan. 24, 2018

ICE agents detain Jamal in front of his home as he is preparing to take his children to school. He’s initially held in jail in Versailles, Missouri, before being transferred to jail in Platte County, then a detention facility in El Paso, Texas.

Credit Frank Morris / KCUR
Taseen Jamal said ICE agents wouldn't let him, his mother or his siblings say goodbye to their father.

Feb. 7, 2018

Immigration judge Glen Baker grants a temporary stay of removal.

Feb. 12, 2018

Baker dissolves the temporary stay. Immigration court rulings are not typically made public, but Jamal’s attorneys say Baker ruled he didn’t have jurisdiction over the case. That’s because Jamal’s attorneys had challenged the legality of the 2011 order, which was issued by a different immigration judge. It appears Baker decided he didn’t have jurisdiction to rule on the legality of that order. Jamal’s attorneys then file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals, which reviews immigration court decisions. The BIA issues its own stay until it can hear the case and render a decision, probably in a few weeks after briefs have been filed by both sides.

What's Next?

If the Board of Immigration Appeals rules that Jamal is subject to deportation, is that the end of the matter?

No. While BIA decisions are binding on immigration officials, its decisions are subject to review by federal appeals courts. In this case, any appeal would be taken up to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

Does Jamal have other legal options?

Yes. In addition to challenging the legality of the 2011 order in immigration court, his attorneys have filed a parallel habeas corpus a proceeding in U.S. District Court in Kansas City. That case challenges the legality of his detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Jan. 24. His attorneys say his detention was improper because it occurred without notice and without an opportunity for Jamal to be heard. At the time, Jamal was under an order of supervision by the Department of Homeland Security and had been checking in regularly with the agency, as the order required him to do.

If he was complying with the order, why was he detained?

Since Donald Trump became president, arrests by ICE have surged 40 percent, according to the Washington Post. Although ICE says that it’s priorities remain national security threats and violent criminals, the agency now has greater discretion to detain immigrants with no criminal record. The Post says that ICE made 37,734 “noncriminal” arrests in fiscal 2017, more than twice the number it made in the previous year.

Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR
After traveling to El Paso, Texas, to visit Syed Jamal in detention, Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver attended a 'Free Syed' rally at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday, where he delivered messages from Jamal to his three children, pictured.

“Critics say ICE is increasingly grabbing at the lowest-hanging fruit of deportation-eligible immigrants to meet the president’s unrealistic goals, replacing a targeted system with a scattershot approach aimed at boosting the agency’s enforcement statistics,” the Post wrote.

Jamal appears to have been caught up in that dragnet.

Where is Syed Jamal right now?

After Jamal was detained by ICE in front of his Lawrence home on Jan. 24, he was held in a jail in Versailles, Missouri, before ICE moved him to a staging area in El Paso, Texas, where the agency was preparing to remove him and other detainees from the country. Several hours before the immigration judge dissolved his stay on Monday, ICE put him on a plane bound for Honolulu. The agency presumably intended to fly him to Bangladesh. The BIA’s stay on Monday prevented ICE from doing that and, on Wednesday, Jamal was returned to the Kansas City area.

This story was updated on Thursday, 12:06 p.m., to reflect Jamal's return to Kansas City. 



Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.