In what Syed Jamal’s attorney has called an “extraordinary” turn of events, the Lawrence father, whose deportation arrest and subsequent legal battle has made national headlines over the last several weeks, has been granted another temporary stay of removal.
Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law, the firm representing Jamal, announced the news shortly before hosting a press conference Monday afternoon at its Kansas City, Mo., offices. There, Rekha Sharma-Crawford, Jamal’s attorney, confirmed the Bangladeshi-born scientist was on a plane headed to Honolulu but that she hadn’t been notified where Jamal would be taken next.
UPDATE 9:30 a.m.: According to social media posts by Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law and an online listing by ICE, Syed Jamal's location as of Tuesday morning was the Honolulu Federal Detention Center.
Sharma-Crawford and Jamal’s family are asking that he be returned to Kansas in the meantime. With a stay of removal, Sharma-Crawford said, “there’s really no reason to leave him out in Honolulu.”
“The minute he leaves American air space, the courts lose jurisdiction. So, because they’re landing in Hawaii, this gives the courts jurisdiction,” she said. “It is our hope that they will bring him back and not leave him in Hawaii.”
Jamal’s status changed dramatically within the span of just a few hours, starting with his removal by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from an El Paso, Texas, detention center around 7 a.m. Monday. Later that morning, around 11:45 a.m., Jamal’s legal team learned that a judge had ruled against reopening his case. At that time, Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law posted on Facebook, there was no stay of removal in place, leaving Jamal at risk of deportation.
In response, his attorneys filed a last-minute appeal around 1 p.m. Monday along with a fresh motion for stay of removal. Sharma-Crawford and Jamal’s brother, Syed Hussein Jamal, said the Department of Homeland Security had kept them in the dark about Jamal’s whereabouts until news broke around 4:30 p.m. that a new stay of removal had been granted after a temporary one had been granted last week to allow time for the judge's ruling.
“To put a family through that, where they don’t know where their loved one is — it’s outrageous,” Sharma-Crawford said.
Jamal was reportedly upbeat this past weekend while receiving a visit from U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Sharma-Crawford told the Journal-World Monday morning.
Sharma-Crawford said her husband and law partner, Michael Sharma-Crawford, also traveled to the El Paso detention center where Jamal was being held at the time. Sharma-Crawford, an immigration attorney based in Kansas City, Mo., said her husband met with Jamal and Cleaver, D-Missouri, this past Saturday.
“He’s keeping in good spirits and was in a very positive mood,” she said of Jamal Monday morning, hours before news broke of his then-impending removal. “ … He was inquiring about the congressman’s family, which kind of shows you his character.”
Jamal has not seen his wife and children since Jan. 24, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested the 55-year-old scientist and academic outside his Lawrence home. Jamal’s wife, Angela Zaynub Chowdhury, who is also from Bangladesh, has said the incident traumatized their three children, all of whom are U.S. citizens. Jamal, who has lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years, has no criminal record in Douglas County.
Cleaver announced plans over the weekend to advance special legislation this week that would seek to release Jamal from custody and secure his legal status, according to the Kansas City Star. After visiting Jamal in Texas on Saturday, Cleaver spoke in support of the Lawrence father during a rally Sunday in Kansas City, Mo., where he showed a drawing by Jamal’s youngest son, Fareed.
The drawing of a dragon was accompanied by a simple, handwritten message in marker: “I miss my dad.”
Republican U.S. Rep Lynn Jenkins also expressed her dismay with the course of events Monday.
The congresswoman, who represents Kansas’ second district, issued the following statement to the Journal-World before news broke of Jamal’s fresh stay of removal late Monday afternoon:
“Last week I wrote a letter in support of Mr. Jamal’s case being reopened to ensure due process is served. I am disappointed to learn of the Judge’s decision to not re-open the case,” Jenkins, whose congressional district includes Lawrence, said in a statement. “My heart aches for his wife and children. I cannot imagine what they are going through during this very difficult time.”
In a story published Sunday in the Washington Post, former acting ICE director John Sandweg explained the difference in how the agency prioritizes deportation arrests since President Donald Trump took office a year ago. Sandweg, who helped draft a 2014 memo that prioritized arrests based on the severity of immigrants’ criminal records, said ICE has the resources to deport only about 200,000 cases a year from the country’s interior.
“The problem is, when you remove all priorities, it’s like a fisherman who could just get his quota anywhere,” Sandweg told the Washington Post. “It diminishes the incentives on the agents to go get the bad criminals. Now their job is to fill beds.”
Matthew Albence, executive associate director of ICE’s immigration enforcement division, said the agency’s priority remains the same as it did under former President Barack Obama: focusing on those who pose a threat to public safety or national security. However, agents are now also enforcing judges’ deportation orders against all immigrants who are subject to deportation, regardless of criminal record or lack thereof.
“There’s no list where we rank ‘This is illegal alien number 1 all the way down to 2.3 million,” Albence told the Post.
Trump in January 2017 issued an executive order that expanded ICE’s enforcement and removal focus to include individuals who may not have committed any crimes but who, “in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”
Rekha Sharma-Crawford said she didn’t expect any updates on his case Monday night. Any new information would likely come out Tuesday morning at the earliest, she said.
More coverage: Syed Jamal deportation case• March 20 — Lawrence father Syed Jamal freed from jail as immigration case continues
• March 8 — National law firm announces pro bono support in deportation case of Lawrence father; hearing date set
• Feb. 14 — Immigration law expert explains rocky path to citizenship; for cases like Syed Jamal's, it's complicated
• Feb. 14 — Syed Jamal back in Kansas City area, but still detained, attorneys say
• Feb. 13 — Rep. Jenkins introduces bill that would assist Lawrence father Syed Jamal in deportation battle
• Feb. 12 — Board of Immigration Appeals grants new stay of removal for Syed Jamal
• Feb. 8 — Crowd marches downtown to support detained Lawrence scientist Syed Jamal
• Feb. 8 — Lawrence scientist Syed Jamal granted temporary stay of removal; judge's ruling on deportation expected within 10 days
• Feb. 7 — Brother worries Lawrence scientist could be deported within days; Kansas congressman ‘disturbed’ by prioritization of noncriminal case
• Feb. 6 — Mystery grows around pending deportation of longtime Lawrence resident; online protest petition tops 27,000 signatures
• Feb. 3 — Bangladeshi-born Lawrence scientist, father of 3 now facing deportation after 30-plus years in U.S.