M.J. Jones and Timothy Chizzik are both students at UAlbany, the same school 23-year-old Omar Helalat attended until he was arrested by campus police on domestic violence charges last March.
"He got into an argument with someone and he was accused of assault," Chizzik, a sophomore political science major from Putnam County, said.
A native of Jordan, Helalat was taken into ICE custody shortly after his arrest.
The Albany County District Attorney’s Office confirms the charges — which included strangulation and harassment — were dropped two months later, but Helalat has remained inside a federal detention facility in Western New York ever since.
"The person who originally accused him in the case sent a letter to the court explaining what happened, saying they are not interested in continuing with the case anymore," Chizzik said.
"I can’t imagine,” said Jones, a junior from Connecticut. “I know he is safe but I imagine it is scary."
On Friday afternoon, Chizzik, Jones, and other members of the school’s Consciousness Raising Group, organized a "call in." Students called the office of the campus president's School of Homeland Security, urging them to declare UAlbany a sanctuary campus.
The students say they are protesting the expansion of UAlbany's School of Homeland Security.
"It is obviously a problem, specifically on the campus because we do have a relatively diverse campus [with] a lot of immigrants,” Chizzik said.
"Training future ICE agents among students who are being targeted by that organization is dangerous and hypocritical,” Jones said.
Helalat's attorney Matthew Borowski says his client's protected status under DACA was revoked shortly after his arrest. They are now appealing a judge's decision to have him deported back to Jordan.
Helalat’s former UAlbany peers remain hopeful he will be set free.
"It just goes to show how can you can be a student here, just walking amongst all of us, and then kind of just disappear," Jones said.
Jordan Carleo-Evangelis, UAlbany's director of media and community relations, released the following statement on behalf of the school: "The University is aware of his circumstances, and certainly aware of the broader interest in his case, but we simply cannot — as a matter of federal student privacy law — comment further. My understanding is the university did receive a number of calls on this issue today and they were brief and respectful. We encourage civic engagement among our students, and we would not expect anything different."