Family gets to see Syed Jamal as deportation case lingers

PLATTE CITY, Mo. -- For the first time in a month, a Kansas family sees their husband, father, and brother.

The Syed Jamal immigration story is making waves across the country. Jamal came to the country legally on visas, but overstayed them twice.

ICE picked up Jamal while he was on his driveway in Lawrence last month. He’s been incarcerated ever since; first in Morgan County, Mo., then in Texas, then to Hawaii, and finally at the Platte County jail.

His family tried to visit him last week, but didn’t make it before the required 30 minute wait time. This Sunday, they succeeded.

Waiting is something the Jamal family has done a lot in the last month. On Sunday, it was waiting the mandated 30 minutes before visiting hours, then waiting for Syed to walk into the visitation room, and then waiting for their turn to talk to him. Only three people are allowed on the other side of the glass from him at any time, and the family has only half an hour per week to see him.

“I really miss my dad a lot,” his 12 year old daughter Naheem said, “and I really really want him to come home and be with me and my family.”

Syed Jamal, clothed in a striped orange and white jumpsuit, seemed happy to see his family. He smiled and waved at them through the glass; he even smiled and waved to the media cameras through the glass panes of the Plate County Detention Center doors.

His brother, Syed Hussain Jamal, observed, “He’s lost some weight, and,” he paused, “he’s in okay spirits.”

From marches to letter-writing campaigns to fundraisers, many in the community continue to stand behind Jamal.

His brother spoke for him when he said, “He’s very happy with the community,” said Syed Hussain Jamal, “because we’ve got unbelievable support as you guys know.”

Fourteen year old Taseen Jamal has shouldered the weight of his father’s abscence, says Rekha Sharma, one of the Jamal family’s lawyers.

“He’s given quite a bit to his community,” explained Taseen. “Not just his kids’ communities; he thinks it's his, and he deserves to be a part of it as much as any one of us do.” Jamal had been in the United States for more than 30 years.

But every day seems long, as his family waits on the justice system. And the waiting, they say, is one of the hardest parts.

”I just really need my dad back,” said Taseen. “So does my brother and my sister.”

A judge will hear from Jamal’s lawyers next month; the court date is set for March 20th.

Until then, or until ICE releases him, Jamal will continue to wait in jail. His lawyers say it costs taxpayers $169 a night. Remember, Jamal is just one ICE detainee.

“He’s not the only person in this situation,” said Syed Hussain Jamal on Sunday. “There are thousands and thousands of people who are caught up in this mess right now.”

The National Immigrant Justice Center agrees.