Senators have come together to to help a former navy veteran return to the U.S. after being deported to Jamaica nearly 20 years after being arrested for a cannabis charge.
Californian Senator Alex Padilla and Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner took action on July 1 in an attempt to help former veteran Howard Bailey. The three senators penned a letter, urging President Joe Biden administration’s Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to grant Bailey humanitarian parole in order to allow him to return to the U.S.
“The Biden administration has committed to honoring family unity and redressing racial injustices where possible. Returning Mr. Bailey to the U.S., in light of his overwhelming positive equities and the injustice of his deportation, honors these priorities and is a small step toward restoring humanity to the U.S. immigration system,” the Senators wrote in a joint letter to Secretary Mayorkas.
Originally born in Jamaica, Bailey moved to the U.S. when he was 17 years old, and obtained lawful permanent residence because his mother was a U.S. citizen. Shortly after graduating high school, he joined the U.S. navy and served for two tours in Operation Desert Storm.
Not only was he awarded the National Defense Service Medal, but he bought a house in Virginia with a VA loan got married, had two children, and started his own trucking company. “He was living the American Dream in every sense of the phrase,” the Senators wrote.
Unfortunately, Bailey was arrested in 1995 because a package of cannabis was sent to his home. He didn’t know the contents of the package, but plead guilty to a cannabis charge. Allegedly, his attorney did not inform him about the consequences of that plea in regards to immigration. When he applied for citizenship 15 years later, he openly mentioned the conviction on his application—and ICE took action to deport him.
Bailey was arrested on his own lawn at 5:30 a.m. in front of his wife and kids. In an interview with The Washington Post, Bailey described the insanity of the situation. “ICE grabbed me and didn’t care that my 11-year-old daughter came out screaming and crying. My wife begged them to let her give me pants to wear before they took me away since I was in my pajama shorts.”
Senators Help Veteran in Exile
During Bailey’s exile in Jamaica, he received a pardon from former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in 2017, both because of his military history but also because cannabis convictions are no longer acceptable, due to decriminalization efforts that have expanded throughout the country in recent years. Even with a pardon, it wasn’t enough to help him return to the US.
However, Bailey didn’t express animosity when he was asked about the fact that cannabis is now legal in Virginia, as of July 1. “To see somebody smile, to see somebody have a burden lifted, that’s a good thing,” Bailey told The Washington Post. “But I don’t think there’s anything there that will help me.”
With the help of Senators Padilla, Kaine and Warner, Bailey can receive the help he needs to return to the U.S. “As the Secretary of Homeland Security, you have the authority under current law to grant humanitarian parole for cases like Mr. Bailey’s where urgent humanitarian considerations and significant public benefit apply,” they pleaded with Secretary Mayorkas.
“In addition to the public benefit of bringing home a U.S. veteran who has proudly served his country, paroling Mr. Bailey into the United States is also an appropriate next step to address the profoundly devastating impact of his deportation on his two U.S. citizen children.”
“We urge you to join his motion to reopen his immigration proceedings and grant his application for humanitarian parole” they concluded.
Bailey has been away from his home for too long. With extra help, he can finally return home.
“My body is in Jamaica, but my heart and my soul are in the USA,” he said to The Washington Post. “Every day, I hope I can wake up from this nightmare.”