KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A federal judge on Tuesday freed a Kansas father fighting efforts by the U.S. to deport him to Bangladesh pending the outcome of his case.
U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark ordered the release of Syed Ahmed Jamal, 55, after a hearing in Kansas City, Missouri. He was being held in the jail in Platte County, Missouri, about 25 miles (40 kilometres) north of Kansas City, and did not attend the hearing.
The ruling does not keep Jamal from being deported, and The Kansas City Star reported that his attorney, Rehka Sharma-Crawford, acknowledged that he faces difficulties in staying in the U.S. But she said she was thankful for the judge’s ruling.
Jamal and his supporters have been battling his deportation since Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested him in January at his family’s home in Lawrence, about 40 miles west (64 kilometres) of Kansas City. His three children are U.S. citizens.
“I made a promise to those kids to bring their dad home,” Sharma-Crawford said.
ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said in an email that the agency is complying with the judge’s order but Jamal still faces a deportation order issued by an immigration judge. If the federal Board of Immigration Appeals rules against Jamal, Neudauer said, “ICE will carry out the removal order.”
Jamal entered the U.S. legally in 1987 to attend the University of Kansas but twice overstayed his visa. He was ordered deported in 2011 but had been allowed to stay in the U.S. and check in regularly with immigration authorities. He has worked as an adjunct professor and researcher at Kansas City-area colleges.
U.S. immigration officials put Jamal on a plane bound for his native country last month before an immigration panel granted a temporary stay in the case. Jamal was taken off the flight when it stopped to refuel in Honolulu.
At the Platte County jail, Jamal has been cut off from his family except for Sunday visits behind glass. His possible deportation had prompted a backlash, with a protest march in Lawrence and more than 90,000 people signing a petition supporting him.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri whose office was flooded with calls about the case, took up Jamal’s cause. And Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Republican whose eastern Kansas district includes Lawrence, backed Jamal’s efforts to have his immigration case reopened, and filed legislation to allow Jamal and his wife to stay in the U.S.
“With limited resources and violent, criminal illegal immigrants still in our country, 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 in a statement issued after Tuesday’s hearing.
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. ICE has detained or deported people who had received reprieves from the agency during the Obama administration, which prioritized deporting violent, criminal immigrants.
The government argued unsuccessfully Tuesday that the federal court had no jurisdiction over Jamal’s detention.
More than 100 supporters packed Ketchmark’s courtroom, overflowing into a nearby one where a video feed of the proceedings was shown. Her courtroom erupted in applause shortly after she left the bench.
“I have so many people to thank, the whole community,” Jamal’s wife, Angela Zaynaub Chowdhury, said after the hearing.