A Kansas educator and father of three has spent the last 30 years in the U.S., but last week he was taken into custody by immigration officials.
Syed Jamal’s wife and children are asking for help after he was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in his front yard as he was leaving to take his children to school, KCTV in Kansas City, Missouri, reported.
Jamal’s 14-year-old son Taseen said his father came to the U.S. from Bangladesh. “He didn’t want us to have a life like his parents had,” Taseen said.
The family now resides in Lawrence. Jamal taught chemistry at several local community colleges, including Park University, Rockhurst University and Kansas City Community College in Kansas.
The father of three holds American graduate degrees in molecular biosciences and pharmaceutical engineering, according to the Washington Post.
Jamal has no criminal history, according to the Post.
His family told the newspaper he was originally in the country on a student visa, then switched to an H-1B visa before switching back to a student visa after enrolling in a doctoral program. He was on a temporary work permit at the time of his arrest, but after his visa status became invalid in 2011, a judge had ruled he could stay in the U.S. as long as he periodically checked in with ICE.
“He was granted prosecutorial discretion on an indefinite basis, but that can be taken away at any time and that has happened just recently,” Jamal’s lawyer, Jeffrey Bennett, told KCTV.
Taseen said his father had called the family from jail “crying like like a little child” in a letter included with a petition for his father’s release on Change.org.
“My little brother cries every night, my sister can’t focus in school, and I cannot sleep at night,” the 14-year-old wrote. “My mother is in trauma, and because she is a live organ donor, she only has one kidney, so the stress is very dangerous. She could die if he is deported.”
Taseen also said his father might not survive either because of his age and living conditions in Bangladesh.
At the time of publication, more than 27,000 people had signed the petition.
The professor’s friends and family in Lawrence gathered on Saturday to write letters to the judge handling his case, emphasizing his work in the community and his love for his family. He coached youth sports, did science demonstrations and even ran for the school board a year ago.
“We need people like Syed in our community,” said Susan Baker Anderson, who organized Saturday’s event. “I really think this is one where Syed needs to come home.”
Anderson told the Washington Post that she had expected about 50 people to show up for the event, but 500 came.
When Jamal was taken into custody in January, at least two of his children and wife witnessed as he was handcuffed and taken away. Taseen said he wasn’t allowed to hug his father goodbye.
“It didn’t seem real,” he said. “I felt like I’d been shot because I didn’t think it was happening.”
The ICE agents also told Jamal’s wife she could be charged with interfering if she tried to embrace him, Taseen told the Kansas City Star.
“No one should be able to rip a family apart like this, regardless of their position of power,” Taseen said. “If they still have the audacity to, I don’t know how much human they have left in them.”
Immigration attorney Bennett said Jamal is currently being held in Morgan County, Missouri.
ICE did not immediately respond to KCTV’s request for comment but told the Post that, “as ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”