US veteran deported to Jamaica wants a chance to return to where he loves and served

United States Navy veteran Howard Bailey

A former US Navy veteran, deported to Jamaica close to a decade ago, shared his story with a US Senate Judiciary subcommittee noting that he wanted a chance to return to the country that he loves and served.

Howard Bailey on Wednesday (June 23) took part, via video call,  in a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety, chaired by U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), which examined US immigration policies on military service members and veterans.

Bailey shared with the committee that Jamaica is a particularly hard place to live, adding that ‘deportees’ are a stigmatized group.

“Well, I left Jamaica when I was pretty young, 16, so I really didn’t have a life in Jamaica. Being deported here, life has been really – I mean – it’s hard to imagine I came here with nothing, except a pair of jeans, that one that I put on when ICE took me,” began Bailey in his testimony to the subcommittee.

“I had to sleep on the floor, I had nowhere to live, I was just dropped off in a country but as time goes by… Jamaica is a hard place to survive, the crime rate is high here, poverty is high… ummm deportees are stigmatized, so I live my life in fear because we are often the target of some vicious attacks  because I don’t know what it is they stigmatize people  what are being deported from the United States,” Bailey added.

Bailey further told the subcommittee that deportation has had a negative impact on his entire family, the majority of whom live in the United States.

“My mother who is in the United States ,who her health has declined from all the grief  and the sorrow and all the emotional stress  she is going through to know that her son’s life is in danger and  I am not at home. My daughter has suffered  tremendous mental health, when I left she  tried to commit suicide twice, she had to get a lot of counselling … my son, as we speak here today,  is in the penal system,” said an emotional Bailey on the brink of tears.

“If I should get a chance – Just a chance – this is something my family hoped and prayed for , just a chance so i could come back and be in my kids life and bridge that gap and be a father figure. Now, I can’t do nothing about the past but I can steer the future. I am just asking for a chance to come home to the country that I love, the country I served, the United States of America,” added Bailey.

The hearing also saw key experts sharing the  need for immigration and citizenship policies to protect US veterans and military families.

Among those who participated included United States Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) of the Army National Guard and Immigration Attorney for Cascadia Cross Border Law Group, LLC Margaret Stock, United States Navy Veteran Deported to Jamaica, Howard Bailey and Nonresident Senior Fellow Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker.

Senator Padilla is among a group of US senators hoping to make it easier for immigrant veterans to gain U.S. citizenship for their service, as well as pass legislation to aid those who have been deported.

Bailey was deported to Jamaica in 2012 after spending two years in an ICE detention centre, he is currently a pig farmer in Trelawny.