Editorial: Family belongs together

Syed Jamal is home with his family after nearly two months in jail.

Jamal was released Tuesday following a ruling by federal judge Roseann Ketchmark that he be released while he awaits a Board of Immigration Appeals ruling in his deportation case. Ketchmark made the right call. Jamal, who lives in Lawrence with his wife and three children, is not a flight risk.

In fact, as U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins made clear Tuesday, Jamal should never have been put through the ordeal of the past two months.

“The fact that our government would prioritize resources to attempt to deport Syed is offensive to our common sense and a fiscally reckless use of taxpayer dollars,” Jenkins said, noting that Jamal had worked, paid taxes and raised a family in the United States. “Syed is the type of immigrant our nation always has and should continue to welcome, exactly the type of immigrant this ‘nation of immigrants’ was built by.”

Jenkins sought legislation to help Jamal and his family.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents arrested the 55-year-old scientist, who was born in Bangladesh, outside his Lawrence home on Jan. 24. The arrest caught Jamal and his family by surprise — he had lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years and had no run-ins with law enforcement.

Jamal initially came to the United States in 1987 on a student visa. He attended the University of Kansas and 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.

He overstayed his visa and voluntarily departed the country in July 2002, returning to Bangladesh where he married. He returned to the United States in October of 2002 on another visa.

He overstayed his recent visa and was ordered to voluntarily deport in 2011. He appealed that decision, but his appeal was dismissed in 2013 and he was ordered to leave the country. But for nearly five years, no effort was made to enforce the order. Jamal was allowed to continue living with his family and working as a professor at Kansas City, Kansas Community College, until ICE agents arrived at his home in January.

Though he has been released from jail, Jamal’s presence in the United States remains precarious. He continues to be under a deportation order, and a hearing is scheduled before the Board of Immigration Appeals next month. If his appeal gets dismissed again he could face immediate deportation. That would be a travesty.

In the immigration playbook, Jamal’s case stands as a lesson in “what not to do.” He has suffered enough. Barring new evidence, Jamal should be allowed to remain I the United States with his wife and three children.

Correction: A previous version of this editorial misspelled the name of federal judge Roseann Ketchmark.