LAWRENCE, Kan. — A man who is fighting deportation from Kansas to his native Bangladesh acknowledges he made mistakes years ago while trying to stay in the U.S. and hopes immigration officials will let him remain in the country he calls home.
Syed Ahmed Jamal entered the U.S. legally in 1987 on a student visa. He said his troubles began in 2006, when he tried to switch from a work visa at Children’s Mercy Hospital, where his research had been discontinued, to a student visa he needed to pursue a doctorate at the University of Kansas. The wait between visas created what he called “a gap” in his status, which proved to be critical in deportation proceedings that began in 2011.
Even just a few months between visas “can be held against you forever,” he said Wednesday while attending a party with neighbors, who were celebrating his release from a Missouri jail two months after he was arrested by immigration officials at his Lawrence home, The Kansas City Star reported .
Immigration officials allowed Jamal to stay if he reported regularly to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which he did up to the week he was arrested in January at his home.
After his arrest for overstaying his visa, his family, friends, neighbors and attorneys launched a legal and media campaign to keep Jamal in the country. He was being flown back to Bangladesh last month when an immigration panel granted a temporary stay, requiring immigration officials to remove him from the plane when it stopped to refuel in Honolulu. He eventually was returned to the jail in Platte County, Missouri, and was released to his family on Tuesday pending a review of his case.
One of the neighbors hosting Wednesday’s celebration, Marci Leuschen, said Ahmed’s release “gives me hope.”
“If you speak up for what you believe, good things can happen,” she said.
Jamal still faces deportation. The Board of Immigration Appeals is reviewing his case and will issue a judgment, which could take several weeks or months.
If the board reopens his case, it would give hope to other “non-criminal visitors” who are facing deportation, said his Jamal’s younger brother, Syed H. Jamal.
“We’re lucky this occurred in a small town where there’s a community of friends who have the resources to mobilize. So many others (being deported) don’t have that network,” said Syed H. Jamal. “People everywhere are paying attention to the fact that this is happening to their neighbors, not just strangers.”
Even some supporters wonder how Shyed Ahmed Jamal, a Bihari ethnic minority, had not gained citizenship since 1987. Five of his siblings living in North America obtained that status.
In 2008, a citizen brother in Texas filed a “siblings petition,” which would allow Jamal to pursue citizenship. But even when a close relative sponsors a non-citizen, the wait can take 15 to 20 years. Jamal, who has worked as an adjunct professor and researcher at Kansas City-area colleges, also filed a petition seeking permanent residency based on his contributions to education and community, but that request was rejected.
In 2012, Jamal chose not to return to Bangladesh under an immigration judge’s order of removal. He gambled that Canada would accept him and his family, but Canada denied his residency application. Even then, Jamal believed he could continue working and raising his family in Kansas if he complied with supervision orders, he said Wednesday.
Jamal said he appreciated all the support, including from Kansas Republican U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins and Missouri Democratic U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who are working on legislation that would protect him and his wife, who is also Bangladeshi, from deportation.
“To me, this is home,” he said of Kansas and Missouri. “Home sweet home.”
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com