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.
“Not much new development today. Syed is still in the Honolulu Federal Detention Center,” Jamal’s attorney Rekha Sharma-Crawford said 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 commonly-employed administrative delay that allowed him to remain in the country and legally work. But 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.
“We are awaiting an update from his case worker on what the decision is with the new stay in place, if he will be moved or not and, if so, where,” Sharma-Crawford said.
Jamal’s supporters emphasize 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.
“Is the goal to rip a dad apart from the family of US-born citizens?” Jamal’s brother Syed Hussein Jamal asked at a news conference late Monday.
“Any decent human being would not say ‘Yes, that is the right thing to do.’”
Hundreds of people 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.
Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat 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.