Mystery grows around pending deportation of longtime Lawrence resident; online protest petition tops 27,000 signatures

David Carttar, left, his daughter Gabriela Carttar and Claudia Oleo write letters Saturday at the Plymouth Congregational Church to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking it stay the deportations of Lawrence residents Raju Ahmed and Syed Jamal. Susan Baker-Anderson, director of children's education at Plymouth, said she and Dani Lotton-Barker, organized the event in support of their friend Jamal. About 250 wrote letters at the church, she said. A similar hourlong letter-writing campaign followed at the Lawrence Islamic Center with the conclusion of the Plymouth event.

An attorney for a Bangladeshi-born Lawrence resident is confused about why federal officials are now trying to deport him after he has lived peacefully in the U.S for more than 30 years.

But officials with the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency told the Journal-World on Monday that a federal judge ordered Syed Ahmed Jamal to be deported from the U.S. more than four years ago. For reasons that are unclear, however, federal law enforcement agents only acted on that deportation order last month.

Here is a timeline ICE has provided on Jamal’s case:

• Jamal entered the U.S. in 1987 on a nonimmigrant visa. He overstayed that visa, but was allowed to voluntarily depart the country in July 2002.

• Jamal was allowed to legally re-enter the country on another nonimmigrant visa in Oct. 2002. He again overstayed his visa, and a federal judge ordered him to voluntarily depart the country by October 2011. However, ICE contends Jamal failed to depart the U.S. and the judge then issued a deportation order in 2011.

Lawrence father Syed Jamal, pictured here with his children, was arrested last week and is now facing deportation after more than 30 years living in the U.S. In this photo, the research scientist enjoys a lighthearted moment with his daughter, Naheen, and sons Fareed (on shoulders) and Taseen, during a family vacation in California.

• Jamal, however, did not leave the U.S. Instead, ICE said “Jamal came to ICE’s attention” in September 2012. ICE did not elaborate on how Jamal came to its attention. At one point on Monday, ICE said Jamal had been arrested on a misdemeanor criminal offense in Johnson County, and ICE became aware of Jamal’s whereabouts at that point. But when the Journal-World failed to find any charges filed against Jamal in Johnson County in 2012, ICE retracted its previous statement and sent a new one that made no mention of a misdemeanor offense.

Instead, the new statement only said Jamal was “transferred to ICE custody Sept. 11, 2012 from the Johnson County (Kansas) Jail.”

Rekha Sharma-Crawford, a Kansas City, Mo.-based immigration attorney recently retained by the Jamal family, said that information leaves a troubling question unanswered.

“What was he doing in Johnson County Jail?” she asked.

Regardless, Jamal was not deported in 2012. Instead, he was allowed to file an appeal of his deportation order, according to the statement from ICE. A federal appeals board in May 2013 dismissed Jamal’s appeal, and he was again ordered to leave the country.

“To effect this removal order, deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Jamal outside his residence on Jan. 24, 2018,” ICE said in its statement on Monday.

However, ICE did not provide any explanation about why it had not enforced the deportation order for more than four years, or what sparked the agency to enforce the order last month.

Jamal’s wife, Angela Zaynub Chowdhury, spoke to the Journal-World last week about the arrest and its impact on their three American-born children. The arrest, which occurred in the morning as Jamal was about to drop his kids off at school, was a “complete shock,” Chowdhury said.

“They just showed up,” Chowdhury said. “They put handcuffs on his hands, and they wouldn’t let us hug him or talk to him.”

Chowdhury said her husband originally came to the U.S. on a student visa to attend the University of Kansas in 1987. He earned bachelor’s degrees in biology, biochemistry and philosophy from Rockhurst University in 1997, before earning his master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2001.

After returning to Bangladesh briefly in 2002 to marry Chowdhury, Jamal returned to the U.S. with his wife a few months later, this time on an H1B visa to work at Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Hospital. He then had his status changed to a student visa in order to pursue a doctorate degree at KU.

Jamal overstayed that visa, opting to remain in the U.S. with his three American children even when given the option for voluntary departure, Chowdhury said.

The family’s attorney, Sharma-Crawford, said papers would be filed Monday to legally challenge the 2011 proceedings that ordered Jamal voluntarily leave the U.S.

“I think it is unfortunate that the climate of the United States has shifted so dramatically to the right where the appreciation for people who have literally been long-term community members and fathers and employees and really have no other negative factors in their history, that this (deportation) is what we’re doing,” Sharma-Crawford said.

The public has rallied around Jamal and his family since news of his arrest broke late last week. Letter-writing campaigns at Plymouth Congregational Church and the Islamic Center of Lawrence on Saturday attracted hundreds of participants. As of Monday afternoon, a petition created in support of Jamal had reached nearly 27,000 signatures.

“We are moving full speed ahead,” said Jamal’s brother, Syed Hussein Jamal, of Arizona. “The family is very thankful for the support from the community.”