Syed Ahmed Jamal, an immigrant from Bangladesh who has lived in the United States for over 30 years, is the latest victim of the sweeping anti-immigrant and Islamophobic policies being carried out by President Donald Trump's administration.
In January, the 55-year-old chemistry professor with no criminal record was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in front of two of his three children on the front lawn of his home in Lawrence, Kansas, as he was preparing to take his 12-year-old daughter to school. After the young girl alerted her mother about what was happening, an agent informed Jamal’s wife that she could be charged with “interfering in an arrest” if she attempted to hug her husband.
Jamal first came to the United States in 1987 on a student visa and proceeded to earn degrees in molecular biosciences and pharmaceutical engineering at the University of Kansas. His status shifted over the years from having a student visa, to obtaining an H-1B visa for skilled workers, then back to getting a student visa when he began a doctoral program.
Over the years, Jamal worked as an adjunct professor in several colleges, and thanks to a temporary work permit he had, he held a teaching position at Park University at the time of his arrest.
In 2011, Jamal’s visa was deemed invalid, and although he was initially handed a “voluntary departure” order, a judge subsequently ruled that he’d be allowed to remain in the country so long as he checked in with ICE on a regular basis to renew his work permit.
Immigration officials sent a statement to The Washington Post insisting that the department “continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.” When pressed on whether Jamal had ever done anything to fit this profile, the agency responded that it did not make exceptions for “classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
ICE arrested Syed Ahmed Jamal in his Lawrence front yard on Jan. 24 while he was taking his daughter to school.— Remove Trump Now (@KaniJJackson) February 4, 2018
His family couldn't even say goodbye... pic.twitter.com/pkv7wGYFuC
Given that Jamal, a Muslim man, has a completely clean record, is beloved in his community, and has proven himself to be exactly the kind of “valuable” immigrant the Trump administration claims to want, it’s hard to imagine the professor’s knowledge of chemistry isn’t connected to his arrest.
After all, we’re talking about a country where a 14-year-old Muslim boy with dreams of being an engineer was arrested for building a digital clock because officials at his school assumed he’d built a bomb. Although this particular case happened in 2015 before Trump took office, the new administration has undoubtedly heightened biases and prejudices that were already deeply embedded in American society.
Jamal, the sole provider for his family, has been sitting in a jail nearly three hours away from his home for the past two weeks. The Jamals have been devastated throughout the whole ordeal, particularly the professor’s wife, who has only one kidney; the stress could have grave consequences on her health.
Jamal’s brother, Syed Hussain Jamal, pointed out to the press that as a member of the Bihari people, a persecuted minority in Bangladesh, deportation could mean death for his brother at the hands of Islamist extremists. This has happened to many deported immigrants who’ve escaped dangerous situations in their home countries. In 2015, for example, Mexican immigrant Constantino Morales warned U.S. officials that he’d be murdered by a cartel if he were deported, which was exactly what happened six months after he was forced to leave the country.
Jamal’s community has been highly supportive of him and his family; 500 residents gathered at a church for a letter-writing campaign to vouch for his character.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Reuters