Syed Jamal back in Kansas City area, but still detained, attorneys say

Syed Jamal, seen here with his daughter, two sons and his nephew during a family vacation in Tennessee, is facing deportation after more than 30 years in the United States. Jamal, a Lawrence research scientist and academic, has three American-born children, all of whom attend Lawrence schools: Taseen, 13, Naheen, 12, and Fareed, 6.

Syed Jamal, the Lawrence father whose deportation struggle has attracted the attention of national lawmakers and media outlets, has been returned to the Kansas City area from Hawaii, his attorneys announced Wednesday afternoon.

Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law, which posted the news on Facebook, later gave a press conference outside Missouri’s Platte County Jail, where Jamal is being held. Jamal’s attorney, Rekha Sharma-Crawford, told reporters Jamal had been “in good spirits” after landing in Kansas City shortly after 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Alan Anderson, a neighbor and longtime friend of Jamal’s family, said the hope is that Jamal will be allowed to stay with his family under an “order of supervision” while the family fights the matter in the courts. Anderson, who is an attorney but is not representing Jamal in this case, said that process could take months.

That, coupled with a private bill recently introduced by U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins that would aid Jamal’s family as well as the reasoning that Jamal “poses no flight risk,” Anderson said, is why he and other supporters are advocating for Jamal’s return to Kansas.

“It would be inhumane and an utter waste of taxpayer resources to not have him here at this time,” Anderson told the Journal-World.

Jamal’s legal team on Tuesday filed a motion in court to either transfer his case to Hawaii, where he was detained as of Tuesday evening, or return him to a Missouri facility. Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law earlier that day announced on Facebook that “attorneys for the government have indicated they are coordinating efforts to bring Syed back to Kansas City.”

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.

Sharma-Crawford said during Wednesday’s press conference that she hoped Jamal’s family would be able to visit him soon, possibly later that evening. It’s ultimately in the hands of ICE officials to decide when and if Jamal is released, Sharma-Crawford said. The agency also has the discretion to move Jamal to another facility if it wishes to. However, she said, “ICE has indicated that it was their intent to keep him detained until the Board of Immigration Appeals has ruled.”

Sharma-Crawford said she hoped ICE would reconsider its position “within the next few days” and put Jamal under an order of supervision.

“Legally, what you’re looking at is probably several months, easily, before the Board of Immigration Appeals process is complete,” she said. “In terms of the private bill, it’s even more immense than that. So, this is not going to be resolved very quickly.”

Jenkins introduced the private bill that would aid Jamal in his deportation fight on the House floor Tuesday. The bill would make Jamal and Chowdhury eligible to receive an immigrant visa or to adjust their status to permanent residency upon filing an application.

Chowdhury came to the U.S. in 2002, and there also was an order for her removal several years ago, according to Heather Frierson, a spokeswoman for Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, who helped draft the bill.

Jenkins said in a statement that she is “hopeful that an appropriate solution can be reached for a man who has spent 30 years here and is well respected and valued in the Lawrence community.”

Cases such as Jamal’s have been on the rise. Shortly after taking office last year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that widened the categories of immigrants in the U.S. illegally who could face deportation. The number of arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement surged almost 40 percent from the time of Trump’s inauguration to the end of September, compared with the same time period the year before. ICE has also detained or deported people who had received reprieves from the agency during the Obama administration.

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.