Syed Jamal Ordered Released From Jail; Still Doesn't Know Whether He'll Be Deported
Syed Jamal, the Bangladeshi-born scientist whom the federal government is trying to deport, must be released from jail, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Jamal, who has been in detention for the last 56 days, was expected to be released from the Platte County Jail later Tuesday and return to Lawrence, where his wife and three young children live.
U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark said that though the government was entitled to detain Jamal for a reasonable period of time, his lack of a criminal history and his strong ties to Lawrence favored his release.
Jamal, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years and taught chemistry at the college level, had overstayed his visa and was detained by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in front of his home on Jan. 24 as he was preparing to take his daughter to school.
Jamal is still waiting to hear whether he'll be deported, as ICE officials had sought to do on Feb. 13, when he was flown as far as Hawaii. The Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia halted his deportation after his lawyers appealed, and isn't expected to rule on his case before May.
If the board upholds the deportation order, Jamal still may be able to stay in the country. A private bill sponsored by Republican Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins would grant him lawful permanent residence in the U.S.
Alan Claus Anderson, Jamal’s Lawrence neighbor and an attorney with the Polsinelli firm who recently was retained by Jamal’s family, said the legislation has been submitted to the House Judiciary Committee. He said there’s an extensive information gathering process, “but then we hope it can move fairly quickly, swiftly."
"There’s a matter of making sure they have what they need or questions are answered in that process,” Anderson said.
The courthouse in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, was packed with family, friends and supporters of Jamal, who applauded after the 90-minute hearing ended.
Jamal previously was allowed to stay in the United States under orders of supervision, which enabled him to get temporary work permits. He was previously detained in 2012 for 57 days.
For now, Ketchmark said, Jamal will need to check in periodically with immigration authorities as he had under his previous order of supervision.
After the hearing, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver released a statement saying that he was pleased Jamal "will be able to spend some much needed time with his wife and children but this is far from over."
"The current immigration system is broken and affects families who have responsibilities and deep ties to their communities," Cleaver, a Kansas City, Missouri, Democrat, said. "We must fix these laws that criminalize hard-working, contributing members of society like Mr. Syed Jamal and that’s what I plan to push for in Congress.”
Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.