Immigration case of Lawrence scientist to continue until 2022; judge to review possible options in coming months

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

Syed Jamal, second from left, talks with his family following an immigration hearing Nov. 27, 2018.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Whether a Lawrence scientist and father will be able to stay in the United States permanently won’t be determined for at least a few years.

Syed Jamal, originally from Bangladesh, had the first hearing in his recently reopened case on Tuesday in Immigration Court in Kansas City, Mo. During the brief scheduling hearing, Judge Glen Baker said he would review whether Jamal met the qualifications for certain forms of deportation relief and set Jamal’s next hearing for April 27, 2022.

Jamal is applying for two ways to remain in the U.S., one via a cancellation of removal and the other through asylum. Baker, though, said he is not sure whether Jamal is eligible for the cancellation of removal. Baker said he would review the matter and issue a written decision. The hearing in 2022 will proceed either way, since he can apply for asylum.

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Jamal’s hearing was combined with that of his wife, Angela Zaynub Chowdhury, who is also from Bangladesh and seeking the same forms of relief.

If immigrants have already been living in the United States for 10 years with no disqualifying convictions, they can qualify for a form of deportation relief called a cancellation of removal. Asylum is a process that applies to refugees from a foreign country who can demonstrate they have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of various qualifying factors.

One element of Jamal’s case is whether a voluntary departure order that an immigration judge previously issued him is valid. Whether the order is valid matters because it would make Jamal ineligible for a cancellation of removal.

Jamal’s attorney, Michael Sharma-Crawford, told the judge that the order was not valid because Jamal was not provided the proper notifications. He said a box acknowledging that certain required advisals had been read was not checked. Attorney Patricia Lacey, representing the Department of Homeland Security, said the notice was valid and that Jamal had been properly advised regarding the order.

Following the hearing, Sharma-Crawford said that although there is not a timeframe for when the judge will make his decision about the validity of the order, he expected it in coming months.

“If the order’s not valid, then the penalty by not departing shouldn’t apply either,” Sharma-Crawford said. “And so that’s the point of contention that the judge is going to take under a written decision.”

Several friends and supporters of the Jamals attended the hearing, as did their three school-age children, all of whom are U.S. citizens. The children greeted their parents with smiling faces once the next hearing date was set and the proceedings concluded, and Jamal himself was also positive.

“I am very optimistic that when it comes, it will be a positive decision,” Jamal said. “That’s what I’m hoping, and we’ll do our best to convince the court.”

Between now and the 2022 court date, Jamal said he plans to stay in Lawrence and continue with what he’s been doing: teaching, researching and taking care of his children. He said he will continue to apply for renewals of his work permit.

Jamal was nearly deported earlier this year related to an overstay of a previous visa, and his case has attracted international attention. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Jamal on Jan. 24 as he was taking his children to school and he was subsequently held in ICE custody about two months.

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. 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.


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