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By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, ST. JOHN, Antigua, Fri. Aug. 27, 2021: A Caribbean immigrant veteran who served his country but was then deported from the US and forced to live more than a decade away from his family, is finally back in the U.S.

U.S. Navy veteran Howard Bailey, who was born in Jamaica, was reunited this week with his family in Virginia after living 10 years in exile in Jamaica after being deported in 2010. 

That’s all thanks to the work on his behalf of The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP). 

“Eleven years ago, I went to bed with my family and woke up to be snatched away from my home and family–dragged out by ICE officers while my children watched,” said Bailey. “While I fought my case for two years in immigration detention someone inside said to me ‘hey man– here, hope is dead. What are you hoping for?’ These past 11 years I thought he was right, but today I am home, and I feel hope is alive again after so long.”

Bailey served for four years in the U.S. Navy, including during Operation Desert Storm. But ICE ripped him from his family for detention and deportation based on a marijuana conviction later pardoned by the governor of Virginia and despite his lawful permanent resident status. 

Bailey was one of 11 deported individuals featured in NIJC’s April 2021 white paper A Chance to Come Home: A Roadmap to Bring Home the Unjustly Deported, which urged the Biden administration to adopt a centralized process to give unjustly deported individuals a meaningful chance to come home.  

“When I was deported, my family’s entire lives went down the drain. I was the main provider, and they were left financially drained–they could barely survive. The emotional devastation gripped my mother, my siblings, my children – my deportation was a negative chain effect for every single person in my family,” said Bailey. “This is not something I wish on anyone – I would never want to live and see any other family go through what my family went through.”

Bailey recently testified from Jamaica about his experiences before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing led by U.S. Senator Alex Padilla. Following that hearing, Senator Padilla sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security urging the agency to reopen Mr. Bailey’s immigration proceedings and grant him humanitarian parole.

“Howard Bailey fought for our country and I’m proud to fight for him. I’m relieved that our calls to bring him home were heard by the Biden administration and that Howard will soon be reunited with his family,” said Senator Padilla. “But we cannot let up the fight. There are thousands of additional veterans who deserve this same consideration. We must continue to undo the harmful immigration policies that are hurting our veterans, service members, and their families — including obstacles to pathways to citizenship imposed by the Trump administration.”

Bailey is one of thousands of Black and Brown immigrants unjustly deported after contact with the U.S. criminal legal system. NIJC said it is urging the Biden administration to use its discretion to bring home others like Bailey and to establish a review process to systematically consider requests for return.

“While momentous, Howard’s homecoming should not be an exception in the U.S. immigration system,” said Nayna Gupta, associate director of policy at NIJC. “We urge the Biden administration to follow through on its promises to honor family unity and redress racial injustice by creating a centralized process based on existing laws to review the cases of all unjustly deported individuals so that others like Howard have a meaningful chance to come home.”

“For the eight years that I have represented Howard at the Immigrant Defense Project and Just Counsel, I have watched him fight for himself and others in the face of unjust laws that cruelly exiled him from his family and home,” said Alisa Wellek, founding attorney at Just Counsel and former executive director of IDP. “I am grateful to Howard’s incredible legal and advocacy team, Senator Padilla, and the Biden Administration for beginning to right this wrong and hope Howard will be the first of many who have suffered under these laws to come home.”

“Howard’s case exemplifies how the entanglement of the criminal legal and immigration systems devastates communities of color,” said Jane Shim, Senior Policy Attorney at IDP. “The Immigrant Defense Project will continue fighting the unjust laws that permanently separate people from their communities and supporting immigrants who are fighting to return home.”

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