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A chemistry professor who has lived in Kansas for 30 years was already flying back to his native Bangladesh when a federal immigration board issued a new stay of deportation that his supporters hope will allow him to return to the U.S., his attorneys said.

It was a dramatic day on Monday for the family and supporters of Syed Ahmed Jamal, 55, who has been battling deportation since Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested him Jan. 24 at the home in Lawrence where he lives with his wife and three children, who are all U.S. citizens.

A federal immigration judge early Monday removed a temporary stay he issued last week for Jamal, who was being held in a detention center in El Paso, Texas. His attorneys immediately sought a new stay from the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia, which granted one later Monday, but not before Jamal was put on a flight to Bangladesh, said his attorney, Rekha Sharma-Crawford. That plane was scheduled to refuel in Hawaii and Sharma-Crawford said she was hopeful he would be taken off the plane and be sent back to the U.S., KMBC reported.

Jamal’s possible deportation had prompted 94,000 people to sign a petition in his support. Rep. Emauel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri whose office was flooded with calls about the case, took up Jamal’s cause, even visiting him in El Paso over the weekend. On Monday, before the second order was issued, he issued a statement saying he would continue with plans to draft a bill prompted by Jamal’s case that shows how “this broken and unfair” immigration system affects families who have deep ties to their communities.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins, whose Kansas district includes Lawrence, also said before the second stay was issued that she supported Jamal’s efforts to have his immigration case reopened.

“My heart aches for his wife and children,” Jenkins said. “I cannot imagine what they are going through during this very difficult time.”

Jamal has worked as an adjunct professor and researcher at Kansas City-area colleges. He entered the U.S. legally in 1987 to attend the University of Kansas but overstayed his visa while pursuing a doctorate. He was ordered deported in 2011 but had been allowed to stay in the U.S. and check in regularly with immigration authorities.

Sharma-Crawford said Jamal has a work permit that is valid until October 2018 and that he was trying to work within what she said was a complicated immigration system.

ICE officials have consistently declined to explain why they chose to enforce the order in late January.

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