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Kansas chemistry teacher fights immigration arrest

More than 25,000 people have signed a petition to prevent the deportation of a Kansas chemistry professor.

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Cat Reid
LAWRENCE, KS — More than 25,000 people have signed a petition to prevent the deportation of a Kansas chemistry professor.

According to his attorney, Syed Jamal legally came to the U.S. from Bangladesh 30 years ago. The father of three and husband is a respected chemist who most recently taught at Park University.

Attorney Jeffrey Y. Bennett said Jamal did initially overstay his visa but in 2012 was granted was called "prosecutorial discretion."

"It's not a visa. However, it's basically an indefinite protection from deportation," Bennett explained.

The protection can vary based on administration, he added.

For Jamal, it seemingly expired on Jan. 24, when he was arrested in his front yard while getting his kids ready for school.

Since then, thousands have signed a petition in his defense and written letters of support.

The president of Park University, where Jamal began teaching in January, plans to write a letter of his own.

"While we have only limited information about the complex issues that apply to Syed's case, we hope there are options that may allow this husband, father, valued community member, scientist and educator to remain in the United States," President Greg Gunderson wrote in a statement to 41 Action News.

The university also released information on its hiring process. Each employee must complete and I-9 Form and be run through the government EVerify process.

In Jamal's case, the university said both steps were completed successfully and it received confirmation from EVerify that his employment was authorized.

Yet Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officials said Jamal lost an appeal of a removal order four years ago.

ICE gave the following statement to 41 Action News:

Syed Ahmed Jamal, 55, from Bangladesh, initially legally entered the United States at Los Angeles in August 1987 on a nonimmigrant visa. After he overstayed that visa, a federal immigration judge allowed him voluntary departure until Aug. 26, 2002. He abided the judge's order and departed for Bangladesh on July 24, 2002.

Three months later, Jamal legally re-entered the United States at Cincinnati, Ohio, on Oct. 25, 2002, on another nonimmigrant visa. He again overstayed his visa, and a federal immigration judge allowed him voluntary departure until Oct. 26, 2011. However, Jamal violated the judge's order and failed to depart the United States, and the voluntary departure order instead became a final order of removal (deportation).

Jamal came to ICE's attention in September 2012. Based on an active ICE arrest warrant, he was transferred to ICE custody Sept. 11, 2012, from the Johnson County (Kansas) Jail. He was released from ICE custody on an order of supervision in November 2012. On May 21, 2013, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed Jamal's appeal of his removal order.

To effect this removal order, deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Jamal outside his residence on Jan. 24, 2018. He is currently in ICE custody pending his removal to Bangladesh.

Jamal himself wrote a letter to immigration officials, telling them he fears for his safety back in Bangladesh due to his status as an ethnic minority in the country.

In an emotional letter on the petition page, Jamal's son wrote, "if my father is deported, my siblings and I may never get to see him again."

According to Bennett, it's a possibility made more real considering how long he'd have to wait to return to the U.S.

"At this point if he were deported, he would have to leave and remain outside the country for at least 10 years," Bennett said.

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