Three US senators want deported Jamaican US Navy veteran back
Democratic VP candidate Tim Kaine among those fighting to overturn Howard Bailey's deportation for ganjaFriday, July 09, 2021
Three senior United States senators, including Tim Kaine who ran for vice president with Hillary Clinton, have taken up the case of Jamaican Howard Bailey, a US Navy veteran who was deported from the US after being held with marijuana.
The two other senators are Alex Padilla, Democrat of California, the chair of the Judiciary Sub-committee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, and Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia.
In a joint a letter Wednesday, the senators urged Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to reopen Bailey's immigration proceedings and grant him humanitarian parole.
Bailey was deported in 2012 for a conviction that has since been pardoned, leaving behind his American wife, two American children and a thriving trucking business to eke out an existence as a struggling pig farmer in Jamaica.
US immigration rights groups fighting to bring back Bailey to the States argue that the Jamaican fought for America for four years, including two tours in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq and should never have been deported.
“Mr Bailey fought for our country and I am happy to fight for him,” Padilla said last week at an Immigration Sub-committee hearing to examine how to “better honour the promises made to our brave military members, veterans, and their families in our immigration policy”. Bailey testified at that hearing.
Bailey migrated to the US from Kingston at 17 years old to join his mother who was a citizen in New York. He entered the US Navy after high school and served for nearly four years, for which he was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and honourably discharged.
In an account of how he came to be involved with marijuana, Bailey who was then living in Virginia, told Politico that he had become friendly with another Jamaican he had met on the base.
“One day I bumped into him and he asked for a favour. A friend was sending him a couple of packages from New York, he said, and he didn't have an address other than the base. Could they come to my house? I gave it no thought. Sure, I said.
“The boxes arrived one morning, each about the size of a case of beer… The guy asked me to drop them off. I jotted down the address and tossed the packages in the car, running late already. I was driving toward the city limits when the police pulled me over. I never saw that 'friend' again.”
The boxes came from California, not New York, and were filled with marijuana. Bailey said his lawyer suggested he take a plea deal, admit to felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and do 15 months in a state work camp rather than go to trial and risk much more.
The three senators, in their letter, asked Secretary Mayorkas to consider mitigating factors such as the fact that Bailey, after leaving the Navy, started a trucking business, purchased his home with a VA loan, built a stable life for his family and was “living the American Dream in every sense of the phrase”.
They said that despite not knowing the contents of the package, he had pleaded guilty to a marijuana charge, based on counsel from his attorney, who also failed to advise him of the immigration consequences of his plea.
“Fifteen years later, when Mr Bailey applied for citizenship, he disclosed that he had a marijuana conviction from 1995. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) learned of his conviction only when Mr Bailey himself brought it to the agency's attention.
“ICE then initiated deportation proceedings against him on the basis of this sole marijuana conviction — arresting him on his front lawn with his daughter, son, and wife as witnesses,” the senators charged.
They said that in the years after Bailey's deportation, the US Supreme Court had ruled that such convictions no longer render people like Bailey deportable or make them ineligible for discretionary relief from deportation.
More recently, in 2017, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued a pardon for Bailey's marijuana conviction in light of his service to the US Navy and the increasing decriminalisation of marijuana nationwide.
“Today, the conviction that led to his deportation is no longer a part of his record, and the law makes clear that he is eligible for relief from deportation,” the letter said.
It cited a May 27, 2021 memorandum issued by DHS headquarters to ICE attorneys, encouraging the reopening of cases like Bailey's where “an individual is eligible for relief under the law and merits relief as a matter of discretion”. The memo lists factors that should be taken into account.
These include his prior military service and lawful permanent residence status, decades of residency in the US with significant family ties, the length of time since his conviction (26 years) and the compelling humanitarian circumstances, in his case such as the severe mental health challenges suffered by his daughter.
The senators told the DHS secretary that in addition to the public benefit of bringing home a US veteran who has proudly served his country, paroling Bailey into the US “is also an appropriate next step to address the profoundly devastating impact of his deportation on his two US citizen children”.
— Compiled by Kevin Wainwright and edited by Desmond Allen
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