LAWRENCE, Kan. -- A Lawrence woman and her three children are in limbo, waiting to learn if they'll ever see their husband and father again. The family's attorney said it could be a long shot.
Ten days ago, 55-year-old Syed Jamal was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at his home in Lawrence.
“He was taking me school, and then right as we were about to back out, the ICE people, they came,” said Jamal’s daughter, Naheen.
His wife and three children watched as immigration officials arrested him.
“They were loading my dad into the car. They had him in handcuffs,” said Taseen Jamal, Jamal’s son, “That moment, it sort of felt like something was missing in my chest, and I couldn't breathe.”
“I couldn't really believe what was happening because I never thought something like that would happen to our family,” Naheen said. “I might not ever get to see him again.”
A lawyer representing Jamal filed paperwork asking for a stay in his case.
The Park University professor is an immigrant from Bangladesh who has lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years.
“To allow someone to stay here that long and then just suddenly take it away because you're now going to decide to enforce strictly our immigration laws seems to be in opposition to humanitarian concerns,” said Jeffrey Y. Bennett, a Kansas City lawyer retained by the Jamal family. “You can't let someone plant a seed here in the United States, and then pull out their roots once they've grown.”
But according to ICE, Jamal overstayed his visa twice and violated an order by a judge to leave the country.
Right now, Jamal is being held in custody at the adult detention center in Versailles, Missouri.
“I just want my dad to come home safely and not have to be scared that he's going to be taken away again,” Naheen said.
“He called us a few days ago, and he was crying because he is unsure of what would happen, and he's also unsure about what would happen to us if he got deported and just uncertain about how he would survive if he was taken because of his age and the conditions of his home country,” Taseen said.
Jamal’s attorney said it's possible that his wife could also eventually be deported. Right now, she remains in Lawrence and is taking care of the couple's three children.
Jamal's brother, Syed H. Jamal, who shares the same first and last name, said his brother's wife is devastated.
"She is uncertain about her future and the kids' future," he said. "She is definitely scared of deportation as her immigration status is directly tied to her husband's."
Meanwhile, hundreds in Lawrence started a letter writing campaign to support Syed. A Change.org online petition has garnered more than 28,000 signatures. Donations have been pouring in to a GoFundMe page set up to help the family with legal costs.