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NIJC and IDP Celebrate Mr. Bailey’s Reunion With His Family and Repeat the Call for Biden Admin to Create a Process to Make More Returns Possible

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 25, 2021) - The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) celebrate the return home of U.S. Navy veteran Howard Bailey, who reunited with his family yesterday evening in Virginia after a decade of living in exile in Jamaica following his unjust deportation. 

Mr. 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 urges the Biden administration to adopt a centralized process to give unjustly deported individuals a meaningful chance to come home.  

“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 Mr. 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.”

Mr. Bailey served for four years in the U.S. Navy, including during Operation Desert Storm, but nevertheless 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. 

“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 Mr. 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.”

Mr. 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.”

Mr. Bailey and Senator Padilla will discuss the case in further detail on Monday, August 30, at 1 p.m. Eastern/10 a.m. Pacific during a virtual “Welcome Home Briefing.” Press may register to receive a link to the briefing here.

Although Mr. Bailey’s heroism and service to his country are exceptional, his case is not. Mr. Bailey is one of thousands of Black and Brown immigrants unjustly deported after contact with the U.S. criminal legal system. NIJC continues to call on the Biden administration to use its discretion to bring home others like Mr. Bailey and to establish a review process to systematically consider requests for return.

Members of the legal teams representing Mr. Bailey shared the following statements upon his return to Virginia:

“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.”

See video of Howard reuniting with his family:

Watch a recording of the briefing: