Chicago (AFP) – The fate of a foreign-born teacher was in limbo Tuesday after his deportation from the United States was temporarily stopped while his flight was en route to his native Bangladesh.
Syed Ahmed Jamal, a chemistry teacher based in Lawrence, Kansas, was taken off the flight during a layover in Hawaii — the result of a dizzying chain of events that culminated in a last-minute stay of his deportation.
“He has been taken off the plane, not returned to Kansas City as yet,” Jamal’s attorney Rekha Sharma-Crawford told AFP on Tuesday.
A father of three US citizen children and a beloved member of his community, Jamal’s case has led to a massive outpouring of support from friends, neighbors and critics of US President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Jamal, 55, has lived in the United States for 30 years, overstaying his second visa in 2011.
Without a relatively speedy path to citizenship, he had been granted a waiver to remain in the country and legally work. But the waiver meant immigration authorities could deport him at any time.
He suddenly was arrested three weeks ago while taking his daughter to school.
An immigration judge issued a stay of his deportation last week, but lifted the order Monday. In response, immigration authorities put Jamal on a flight to Bangladesh.
Then, an immigration appeals court granted another stay mid-flight, and Jamal was kept on US soil during a layover in Hawaii.
Jamal’s supporters say that he has committed no crimes during the time he has lived in the United States.
They say his case is an example of how the recent US immigration crackdown has swept up law-abiding immigrants, despite Trump’s initial promise that deportations would target dangerous criminals.
Hundreds have written letters urging immigration officials to halt Jamal’s deportation. An online fundraising campaign has raised nearly $70,000 and an online petition has gathered almost 100,000 signatures.
US Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a Democratic lawmaker to whom Jamal’s supporters appealed for help, said the case was an example of the country’s “broken and unfair immigration system.”
He pledged to offer a bill that would allow Jamal to stay in the country.
“The system is broken. We need to fix these laws that criminalize hard-working, contributing members of society like Mr. Syed Jamal,” Cleaver said.