Lawrence scientist facing deportation says immigration debate should seek middle ground

photo by: Screenshot/Park University video

Lawrence resident Syed Jamal, right, speaks with Park University assistant professor Jack MacLennan during a discussion about his deportation experience, on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Parkville, Mo.

After his immigration case attracted international attention, a Lawrence scientist and father of three says fixing the immigration system will require finding the gray in what, for many people, has become a black-and-white issue.

After more than 30 years in the U.S., Syed Jamal, 55, was nearly deported earlier this year, and his ability to remain here — where his children are U.S. citizens — remains up in the air. Jamal spoke at Park University’s Parkville Campus on Tuesday as part of a university engagement event. Moderator Jack MacLennan, Park University assistant professor of political science, asked Jamal what people who feel strongly about the immigration debate should take away from his story.

Jamal, originally from Bangladesh, commented on how polarized opinions on immigration are. He said that people seemed to feel strongly one way or the other, but that in reality immigration is a complicated issue. He said it’s difficult for people to see a middle ground but he urged that the focus should be on human beings, who immigrate for many reasons.

“We should see people,” Jamal said. “There has to be a human aspect of any law.”

Jamal added that immigration is a global issue and that it needs to be addressed globally. Common sense should prevail, he said, in any attempt to confront the issue. However, he said that during his years in the U.S. he has seen growing polarization and unproductive anger.

“There are attempts by many people all over the world to divide people for political reasons, and that is sad,” Jamal said.

Still, Jamal said he has found that most people he encounters in daily life are friendly and accepting, and he is hopeful — with his own immigration case still pending — that solutions will emerge.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Jamal on Jan. 24 as he was taking his children to school. At the time of his arrest, Jamal was teaching a lab for advanced inorganic chemistry at Park University as an adjunct instructor, according to a news release from Park University.

In mid-February, Jamal was put on a plane back to Bangladesh, but a midair decision allowed him to return to the U.S. to have his case reviewed. After nearly two months in ICE custody, Jamal was freed in March and allowed to return to his wife and children in Lawrence pending resolution of his case with the Board of Immigration Appeals. In August, he won the opportunity to present his case to an immigration judge. The Journal-World did not immediately receive a response Tuesday from Jamal’s attorney regarding whether a trial date has been set in his case.


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