Editorials

Platte County took perverse pleasure in keeping Kansas chemist Syed Jamal from seeing his family

Family visits Syed Jamal at the Platte County jail for the first time in a month

For the first time in a month, Syed Jamal's family was able to see him in person at the Platte County Detention Center. The Kansas chemist has not seen his family since Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested him in the front yard of h
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For the first time in a month, Syed Jamal's family was able to see him in person at the Platte County Detention Center. The Kansas chemist has not seen his family since Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested him in the front yard of h

People around the world have been worrying about what’s to become of Syed Ahmed Jamal, the Bangladesh-born chemistry instructor arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in front of his distraught family in Lawrence last month. His wife was not permitted to tell him goodbye.

That was unnecessarily rough treatment of a beloved teacher, volunteer and recent school board candidate. In his 30 years here, Jamal had broken no law other than overstaying his visa.

But move over, ICE agents, because Platte County is here to compete in this contest of gratuitous kicks. In fact, if officials at the Platte County jail, where Jamal is being held, were trying to come off as cartoon villains, well then kudos, friends.

Jamal’s attorney, Rekha Sharma-Crawford, had called the jail three times to set, confirm and re-confirm that his wife and three U.S.-born children could visit him at 1 p.m. on Sunday. But when they arrived, they were told that they couldn’t see him after all because visitors have to arrive no later than 30 minutes before a scheduled visit. In Sharma-Crawford’s three earlier conversations about logistics, no one had mentioned that.

According to a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, the 30-minute cushion gives the jail enough time to move the prisoner safely into place. But his attorney was allowed to see him.

And that photo of Jamal standing just a few feet away from his family, peering at them through a couple of windows, makes anyone with eyes suspect that he could easily have been allowed to see his wife, Angela Zaynaub Chowdhury, and their crying children, who are 7, 12 and 14 years old.

Another local immigration attorney, Angela Ferguson, said that Sharma-Crawford really should have checked the rules on how early to arrive because the hard line taken by Platte County officials is in no way unusual, and has has gotten considerably worse in the last year.

“We’re having difficulties with Platte County” in general, Ferguson said. “Between the jail and the police, they’re stopping and making money working closely with ICE,” which pays county jails by the night for holding those awaiting deportation. They can’t be enjoying the attention being paid to Jamal’s case, she added, and may be acting out of annoyance. Since his arrest on Jan. 24, the 55-year-old Jamal has been sent to El Paso, Texas, then to Hawaii, where he was en route to Bangladesh when the Board of Immigration Appeals granted his stay and sent him right back to Missouri.

“His children have waited a month to see him,” his attorney said. “What civilized society does this to children?” Ours does, and for no reason beyond the perverse pleasure that comes from heartlessness.

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