Metro professor facing deportation welcomed home with pizza, friends after being released from jail

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Syed Jamal woke up Tuesday morning behind bars. Wednesday night, he was eating pizza with his family.

Jamal spent almost two months in jail after ICE agents arrested him for overstaying his visa. The case received national attention.

For now, he's at home in Lawrence, getting a taste of the something familiar, something simple.

"It`s so great to be around friends and family," he said.

Jamal said Wednesday night's meal was fine dining compared to what he ate behind bars.

"The food jail, it`s just kind of bland," he said.

It's a homecoming party two months in the making.

"We've been waiting for this day for a long time," said friend Marci Leuschen who hosted the homecoming party. "We've been talking about the party we were going to throw, and it`s so fun to actually get to do it."

The 55-year-old Lawrence father and professor was arrested in his front yard at the end of January. He'd been in the United States for more than 30 years and overstayed his visa twice. After his arrest, many who knew him lobbied for him.

"It's unbelievable, and I have this humongous debt of gratitude to this community," Jamal said. "It will be difficult to repay."

On Tuesday, a judge ordered his release for now, pending the outcome of his deportation case.

"As I'm thankful to all these people, I also want people to know that this kind of good is coming out of this, can come out of this," he said.

Pizza probably didn't have much meaning to Jamal's friends and family before, but Wednesday night, it was a symbol of something as simple as having dinner with the people you love.

"They say local support for anyone is important, and this became like a cause,"

"Getting him back here shows if we rally, if we see an injustice, we speak up, good things can happen,"