KANSAS CITY, Mo. >> A Kansas father and husband who is fighting efforts to deport him to Bangladesh was taken off a plane that was flying him back to his native country and is being held at a detention center in Hawaii, his attorneys said today.
Federal immigration officials put Syed Ahmed Jamal, 55, who has lived in Kansas for 30 years, on the plane Monday before an immigration panel granted a temporary stay in the case. He was taken off the flight when it stopped to refuel in Honolulu, said Rekha Sharma-Crawford, one of his attorneys.
Sharma-Crawford said today that immigration officials could return Jamal to the mainland voluntarily, but if they don’t, her firm will ask a federal judge to order his return.
“It is our hope that doesn’t have to happen and they will now at this point return him back to his family but we’ll have to just see what happens,” she said.
Jamal and his supporters have been battling his deportation since Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested him Jan. 24 at his family’s home in Lawrence, where he lives with his wife and three children, who are U.S. citizens.
Until getting on the plane Monday, Jamal was being held at a detention center in El Paso, Texas. A judge lifted a temporary stay Monday morning. Sharma-Crawford said his attorneys and family were not notified before he was put on the plane. When they found out, they immediately sought a new stay from the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia, which granted one later Monday while Jamal was flying to Bangladesh.
ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok confirmed today that Jamal was in the Honolulu center “pending disposition of his immigration case.”
As of early this afternoon, Jamal had not spoken to his family.
Jamal’s possible deportation had prompted a backlash, with a protest march in Lawrence and 94,000 people signing a petition supporting him.
Rep. Emauel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri whose office was flooded with calls about the case, took up Jamal’s cause, even visiting him in El Paso over the weekend. Cleaver’s spokeswoman today said he is still interested in proposing a private bill that would allow Jamal to stay in the U.S.
Rep. Lynn Jenkins, whose Kansas district includes Lawrence, said before the second stay was issued Monday that she supported Jamal’s efforts to have his immigration case reopened.
“My heart aches for his wife and children,” Jenkins said. “I cannot imagine what they are going through during this very difficult time.”
Jamal has worked as an adjunct professor and researcher at Kansas City-area colleges. He entered the U.S. legally in 1987 to attend the University of Kansas but overstayed his visa while pursuing a doctorate. He was ordered deported in 2011 but had been allowed to stay in the U.S. and check in regularly with immigration authorities.
Sharma-Crawford said Jamal has a work permit that is valid until October 2018 and that he was trying to work within what she said was a complicated immigration system.
ICE officials have consistently declined to explain why they chose to enforce the order in late January.