Immigration reform has been getting a lot of publicity over the last few years. This is partly due to the fact that a proposed immigration bill received enough votes in the Senate to pass last summer, but ultimately stalled in the House. This was discouraging to many who were hopeful that they would see immigration reform in 2013.
Now, in 2014, not only is immigration reform legislation still an important topic, but there are specific aspects of immigration law and policy that need to be addressed. One of these areas of concern is that of immigrants who are serving, or who have served, in the United States Armed Forces.
A recent article was posted on CNN.com that speaks to this very urgent issue. The story focused around a 42-year-old Navy veteran, Howard Dean Bailey. In June 2012, Bailey was deported to Jamaica. He hadn't lived there since he was 17 years old.
Bailey attended and graduated from high school in New York. After that, he was in the Navy for four years, working as a communications specialist. He served his country in the Gulf War and also traveled to countries like Israel, Egypt, and Spain. He did all of this as a non-U.S. citizen.
Bailey was honorably discharged from the Navy, but then ended up in some legal trouble. According to Bailey, he was asked by an individual he had met in the military if he would permit a package to be sent to his home in Virginia Beach. Bailey agreed and when the package arrived, he offered to bring it to this individual. However, Bailey was stopped by police shortly after leaving his home. The police had been monitoring the package because it contained marijuana. Bailey denied any knowledge of the contents.
Although Bailey denied any wrongdoing, he was still arrested and given a court date. In 1997, his attorney advised him to plead guilty to the charge of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. In doing this, he hoped to avoid a worse sentence if he ended up being found guilty at trial. Unfortunately, for Bailey, the judge gave him a sentence of 10 years in prison.
Bailey ended up serving just a little over 15 months. However, that time in prison would end up causing him even more trouble down the road. He did well for himself after serving his time and in 2005, he decided to apply for citizenship in the United States. It took another five years for him to be told that his earlier felony prohibited him from obtaining citizenship.
Less than six months after that, immigration enforcement officers came to his home and told Bailey that he was being detained because of the felony. “If I never applied for citizenship it would have been OK,” Bailey said. He was deported in 2012. He told CNN that he cannot even leave his house because of the social stigma attached to being a deportee.
Since being deported, his family members still living in the U.S. have faced difficulties in being apart from Bailey. However, his sister and mother are trying to find a way to bring him back to the U.S. At this point, they have met with people from the Obama administration as well as some West Virginia lawmakers. According to Alisa Wellek, an attorney with the Immigration Defense Project, and currently representing Bailey, President Obama needs to “address the issue of tens of thousands of legal permanent residents being deported each year.”
And, what about his military service? Should the fact that he served in the Navy impact his immigration status? What are your thoughts?