US teacher’s deportation postponed mid-flight

Syed Ahmed Jamal with his kids. (Courtesy photo)
Updated 14 February 2018
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US teacher’s deportation postponed mid-flight

CHICAGO: The fate of a foreign-born teacher was in limbo Tuesday after his deportation from the United States was temporarily stopped while his flight was en route to his native Bangladesh.
Syed Ahmed Jamal, a chemistry teacher based in Lawrence, Kansas, was taken off the flight during a layover in Hawaii — the result of a dizzying chain of events that culminated in a last-minute stay of his deportation.
“Not much new development today. Syed is still in the Honolulu Federal Detention Center,” Jamal’s attorney Rekha Sharma-Crawford said Tuesday.
A father of three US citizen children and a beloved member of his community, Jamal’s case has led to a massive outpouring of support from friends, neighbors and critics of US President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Jamal, 55, has lived in the United States for 30 years, overstaying his second visa in 2011.
Without a relatively speedy path to citizenship, he had been granted a commonly-employed administrative delay that allowed him to remain in the country and legally work. But immigration authorities could deport him at any time.
He suddenly was arrested three weeks ago while taking his daughter to school.
An immigration judge issued a stay of his deportation last week, but lifted the order Monday. In response, immigration authorities put Jamal on a flight to Bangladesh.
Then, an immigration appeals court granted another stay mid-flight, and Jamal was kept on US soil during a layover in Hawaii.
“We are awaiting an update from his case worker on what the decision is with the new stay in place, if he will be moved or not and, if so, where,” Sharma-Crawford said.
Jamal’s supporters emphasize that he has committed no crimes during the time he has lived in the United States.
They say his case is an example of how the recent US immigration crackdown has swept up law-abiding immigrants, despite Trump’s initial promise that deportations would target dangerous criminals.
“Is the goal to rip a dad apart from the family of US-born citizens?” Jamal’s brother Syed Hussein Jamal asked at a news conference late Monday.
“Any decent human being would not say ‘Yes, that is the right thing to do.’“
Hundreds of people have written letters urging immigration officials to halt Jamal’s deportation. An online fundraising campaign has raised nearly $70,000 and an online petition has gathered almost 100,000 signatures.
Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat to whom Jamal’s supporters appealed for help, said the case was an example of the country’s “broken and unfair immigration system.”
He pledged to offer a bill that would allow Jamal to stay in the country.
“The system is broken. We need to fix these laws that criminalize hard-working, contributing members of society like Mr.Syed Jamal,” Cleaver said.


US unveils action group to run policy on ‘malign’ Iran

Updated 13 min 28 sec ago
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US unveils action group to run policy on ‘malign’ Iran

  • Brian Hook led the Trump administration's unsuccessful attempt to negotiate changes to the Iran nuclear deal
  • Pompeo and other officials have denied that the administration is seeking to foment regime change in Iran

WASHINGTON/JEDDAH: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has named Brian Hook as the new 'special representative' for Iran, who will head up an 'Iran Action Group.'

Pompeo declared he is forming the dedicated group to coordinate and run US policy toward Iran as the Donald Trump administration moves ahead with efforts to force changes in the country's behavior after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.

Officials said the group will be headed by Brian Hook, who is currently the State Department's director of policy planning. Hook led the Trump administration's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to negotiate changes to the nuclear deal with European allies before the president decided in May to pull out of the accord.

Since withdrawing, the administration has re-imposed sanctions that were eased under the deal and has steadily ramped up pressure on Iran to try to get it to stop what it describes as "malign activities" in the region. 

In addition to its nuclear and missile programs, the administration has repeatedly criticized Iran for supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, Shiite rebels in Yemen and anti-Israel groups. It has also in recent weeks stepped up criticism of Iran's human rights record and is working with other nations to curb their imports of Iranian oil.

The administration is warning Iran's oil customers that they will face US sanctions in November unless they significantly reduce their imports with an eye on eliminating them entirely. 

It has also told businesses and governments in Europe that they may also be subject to penalties if they violate, ignore or attempt to subvert the re-imposed US sanctions.

In his new job, Hook is to oversee implementation of the administration's entire Iran policy, the officials said. Pompeo and other officials have denied that the administration is seeking to foment regime change in Iran and maintain they only want to see the government change course. Pompeo created a similar group dedicated to working on North Korea policy while he was director of the CIA.

Hook is expected to be replaced as policy planning chief by Kiron Skinner, a foreign policy academic and adviser to several Republican presidential candidates who served on President Donald Trump's national security transition team and very briefly at the State Department after Trump took office, according to the officials who were not authorized to publicly discuss personnel matters and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, two leading German firms are the latest to pull out of projects in Iran as the sanctions take a toll on foreign investment. Rail operator Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom said they would end their involvement because firms investing in Iran will be barred from doing business with the US. Oil firm Total, and carmakers PSA, Renault and Daimler have said they will also withdraw.

Harvard scholar and Iranian-affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh said the regime in Tehran is in deep trouble at home as the sanctions, which came into effect last week, are working.  

“More companies and firms are halting their business deals with Iran,” he said. “Foreign investors are also withdrawing. This is significant due to the fact that many foreign investors have invested billions of dollars in Iran’s debt market as Tehran’s economy is cash-strapped.

“On the surface, Iran’s leaders are brushing aside the sanctions as trivial, but Tehran is significantly wary as the sanctions are affecting its economy negatively. If the Iranian regime does not alter its destructive behavior, the sanctions will cripple its economy.”

The first wave of sanctions focuses on preventing Iran from purchasing US dollars and precious metals, and targeting the automotive and other sectors. A second wave in November will target energy, the main source of Iranian state revenues.

(With AP)