BOHEMIA, Jamaica (AP) β€” Howard Bailey joined the U.S. Navy straight out of high school in Brooklyn figuring he would see the world. He didn’t expect to end up back in his native Jamaica, raising pigs and barely getting by in the poor village of his childhood.
The 43-year-old father of two was deported in May 2012 from the U.S. to his Caribbean homeland because he was convicted of a marijuana-related felony drug charge in 1997 β€” despite the four years he served in the Navy, including a few months on a supply ship during the first Gulf War.
Weighed down by worry and bone-deep weariness, he wants to get back to his family and the future he thought he was building in Virginia. Bailey was a teenager when he and his siblings followed their mother to New York City as green card holders, and he long considered the United States his home.
“It’s so hard,” Bailey said, gesturing at a few rough-hewn pigpens and yam vines climbing up bamboo sticks. “I went from owning a successful trucking business and two homes in the U.S., paying my taxes, raising two beautiful children with a beautiful wife to, well, what you see here.”
Bailey’s case has drawn the attention of immigration lawyers and media because his crime seems relatively minor and the punishment extreme. But he’s not unique: Thousands of non-citizens who served in the U.S. military have been deported to countries around the globe in recent years, immigrant advocates estimate. The precise number is unknown because the U.S. government does not track deportees by veteran status.
Some say the deportees deserve special consideration because of their military service. “We treated you as a national when you wore the uniform, we should treat you as one when it comes off,” said Pennsylvania immigration attorney Craig Shagin, who assists a group for deportees called Banished Veterans.
View galleryIn this May 20, 2014 photo, Howard Bailey feeds pigs …
In this May 20, 2014 photo, Howard Bailey feeds pigs inside pens that he built at a neighbor’s f …
If legal permanent residents die while serving in the U.S. military, they are granted a military funeral and citizenship. But if they finish their service without becoming nationalized and are later arrested, as Bailey was, they are subject to immigration laws passed in 1994 and 1996 that expanded the list of deportable offenses.
It’s an uphill battle to return a deportee in Bailey’s position to the U.S., said Alisa Wellek, who is assisting him as co-executive director of the New York-based Immigrant Defense Project. She said a legal advocacy project at Boston College has agreed to file a motion to reopen Bailey’s immigration case so a judge can determine whether he deserves to stay in the U.S. as a green card holder, or legal resident. But the Department of Homeland Security will ultimately decide if the case is reopened.
U.S. government officials would not discuss specifics of Bailey’s situation, citing privacy rules. Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency “exercises prosecutorial discretion for members of the armed forces who have honorably served our country on a case-by-case basis when appropriate.”
Not everyone sympathizes with foreign-born U.S. military veterans who have been convicted of felonies in civilian life.
“Military service does not in itself absolve anyone – citizens and immigrants alike – from the consequences of their actions,” said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform.
View galleryIn this early 1990's photo released by Eulex Sampson-Fraser, …
In this early 1990’s photo released by Eulex Sampson-Fraser, a young Howard Bailey poses for a p …
In Jamaica, Bailey mulls over his “stupid mistake” and worries about his teenage children, a boy and girl living in Virginia. Once strong students, they are struggling in school.
Following his honorable discharge, Bailey, a communications specialist while in the Navy, was studying to become a dental assistant and living near Norfolk Naval Station when he was arrested in 1995. He was convicted in August 1997 of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Bailey said he was duped into the crime by a fellow Jamaican who was serving in the Navy at the time. Hanging out near the Norfolk base, they bonded over music and he didn’t think twice when his new buddy asked him to sign for a couple of packages at his home. But the parcels contained marijuana and was being tracked by law enforcement.
Two years later, Baily followed his lawyer’s advice and took a plea deal in Virginia Beach Circuit Court and admitted to a felony possession charge rather than risk a harsher penalty by going to trial. He served 15 months in a Virginia lockup and thought that was the end of it.
But when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 2005, immigration authorities were flagged by the conviction. Bailey was locked up in immigration detention centers for two years until 2012, when he boarded a plane with 70 other shackled Jamaicans and flown to the island’s capital on a monthly U.S. flight nicknamed “Con Air.”
Bailey shares his story with few people in Jamaica, where stigma against deportees is high and many people struggle to find work. His mother and siblings wire him money because he doesn’t make nearly enough to support himself by raising just over a dozen pigs.
He’s still flabbergasted he had to leave the country he vowed to defend. His situation keeps him up at night, especially his inability to provide for his two children. His wife has left him and his marriage is over.
“I made a stupid decision in 1995, I paid for it, and then I picked myself up,” Bailey said, his voice thick with emotion as he sat outside a tiny clapboard church across the road from his pigpens. “But this has been like an everlasting punishment.”

Free to be Infinity 26 minutes ago 1 1
This guy is too lost to even realize that he is now living in an abundance of clean air, clean water and clean food, and can grow that food 365. I now live in the Caribbean, and I don’t care if I had to live in a tiny shanty in the bush with no electricty, I would never leave, because there is food growing everywhere. You will never starve. And boy can you breathe. It is like nothing else. And the water. Ohhhhhhh the water. It is crystal clear. And we collect rainwater on our roofs that is filtered and runs into our homes for drinking, bathing and cooking. Rainwater, clean rainwater. This guy has completely forgotten who he is.
Expand Replies (4) Reply


  1. Puss an dawg nuh hab di same luck. Mi nah mek nobady use fi mi address ef dem nuh live ah my gates. Dem man yah fi use common sense an top tun victim…cah si weh reach him. Southern states nuh hab nuh pity pon non-citizen. Not even veteran status can help dem. It rough pappy…but hush.

    1. Trucking business, 2 homes and beautiful wife have him down de a suffa and a raise hog? hmmmm

    2. You really believe he didn’t know what was coming to his home address? They always say that they knew nothing when they are caught.
      You also have to watch when “people” are constantly using your home phone. You can get caught up in a 15-year conspiracy charge. Know who you pick up and drop off at airports in the States…lots of traps you can fall into.

  2. Idiot lawyer? or a Republican judge? or Defendant refusing to accept responsibility?There’s a small statue that would have saved him from the 1996 INS law, should have been used in his petition.
    But taken into account that he was discharge from the navy wid a “scarlett” title of dishonorable discharge…moral character went against him in the end.

    1. :shakehand2
      My words exactly! He had so many opportunity to become a Citizen while he was serving, he’s also excluded from taking the test because he’s in the military. He has to take some responsibility for his own actions. He just have to make the best of his current situation…as the saying goes: “when life give you lemon, make lemon aid” .(don’t quote me)


  3. dis story no sound right. If he had two homes in the us and a trucking business, why is he suffering in Jamaica? something is off.

    1. Having two homes and trucking business can mean he took them out on Credit! if you miss payments on your home and vehicles the Banks going to take back dem things so I am thinking he went to jail and his wife could not pay for the homes and trucks or even manage whatever. So when People say them own this and dat a farrin it no mean it theirs, They give you 30yrs mortgage and 5 or so years car payment.

    2. Wife took it all when he locked up and deported im assuming, how did he aquire all those things in the first place, he down hesnot out he can do Iit all again starting with those pigs. He have a start if he cut the shit and do what he have to he will be ok

  4. where did it say dishonorable pp? I thought he was honorably discharged? what does that mean btw? di he leave voluntarily?

    1. ooops, my bad (eyecandy), but then again him may just neva did get catch while in the military…seriously. J.A.G. investigators may know what him don’t know and kept a file on his ass and submit it to homeland security when him go to immigration court. Me personally of marijuana charges we surpass fi him own others
      honorable=in full recognition of service, dishonorable=disgrace and turnout like stray dog…lol
      I nah pity some a dem cause dem create contacts wid gangs and drug dealers and cause guns fi reach a Jamaica. Bless those who join and remain untainted.
      Simper Fi! to me Bro fi holding him head up. HOORAH!

  5. From the time you become a member of the arm forces you should automatically become a citizen.I know he is living in abundance of free air but he should be the one to make that choice.

  6. Innocent Sminnocent rinnocent……what the hell ever. Classic case of I did not know what was in the package which to me is straigh bull. Me as a grown rass woman naw collect no package a my yard without look at that and see what it is before accepting it. Them think police a fool. That is why when some people boast bout citizenship me just laugh cause a lot of poeple don’t fully understand what it means according to the land that they are living in. Anyway another discussion for another time. Cause not even that him did have before him become drug dealer.
    In the story it seh that he was let off free, until he went to claim citizeship. So who knows what went down during that time. Anyway he served a crime so he has to serve the time. If the judgement is not waranteed he needs to take that up with his lawyer and immigration, but pleading on public forum is a big no no.
    Is like them naw get the fact seh millions of we out here in a the struggle and want a bus. Had there been no marijuna charges he would most like been a citizen today.

  7. why would u fight for a country ur not a citizen of. People run to the armed forces for the benefits but dont always think of everything involved.
    u have a lot of people born here who wont fight for this country.
    the reality is the US have the right to send back who they want.
    unfortunate for him

  8. Him lawyer eff him up.The only ting can save him ya now is fi find one Jewish Immigration lawyer weh jus pass dem bar and want a buss weh we dweet fi free

  9. Him betta try meck di most a him situation. God knows why him send back a him place, a nuh hell battam him eena. Ebry country a try get rid a immigrants and di least infraction if dem can get u out a dem place dem dweeing it. If hog nah work meck him siddung talk to God fi point a more prosperous direction feem life. Him home fi a reason suh werk wid it.

          1. Met, nuff a dem a come up pon some sign off fi join de army! America a gi visa if dem join de army…dem nah join JDF or JCF fi fight crime and mek de place peaceful BUT dem gladly a come america come join military.
            Bet when him did inna de Navy him was only Jamaican when it convenient.

  10. suh how him veteran check cheque guh a month time….nd dis man caan terll mi him bruck,him nuh rich edah but him far from bruck

    1. smaddy ansa him agen
      Libra 16 hours ago 1 2
      Dear Howard,
      It’s disgraceful and dreadful how they’ve treated you but this could be a blessing in disguise. Working in the fresh air and in your OWN country with your OWN people. The USA can make you feel special when you’re in the army/navy until you’ve become a veteran. So even if you were still there, you’d be struggling to make ends meet. And who isn’t in these times. You would probably be there unemployed receiving benefits and feeling a guilt of shame, commit more crimes and landed again in prison. This time maybe indefinitely.
      What you need is a loan (Small Business Loan) to start your own little business, should employment in Jamaica prove difficult. An own Taxi Service/Farm/Shop, etc. I know that funding is your major problem. Money is always the hardest to come by. You’re 42 years, do something positive (with your life – AGAIN) before time runs out. Another 8 years from now, things will only get harder – “Time waits for no man”, you know the saying. Life is easy for some of us but hard for the rest. No more “crying over (possibly) spilled milk”. At least you’re not brain dead and in a wheel-chair like some veterans in the US. This is probably your DESTINY to be back home and you also played a hand in making it happen. Wast no more time dwelling of ‘what probably could’, instead accept your fate and make your SECOND POSITIVE MOVE. It will work this time (adhering to the fact though, that life has its “ups and downs”. What do you have to lose?
      Good Luck!

      1. Verry nice reply.
        May I add: Is not like them send him to a foreign land BUT TO HIM HOMELAND. No matter how long yu leave de a still home. America used yu and refuse yu, get on with life.

  11. I have never reply to a post on this site before, but I empathy with this young man. Whe a person come to the US as a minor, go throgh the school system ans have establish a life here, the the US is all he know. I came here at the age of 11, I am now 47, I have 3 children here, work , married here. If I were to be sent back to Jamaica I would be lost. To me as an adult, even tho I was born in JA, its now a foreing country to me. When a person is sent back to JA under a deportee status, life is hard, you don’t get a break from anyone , your own family , friends or the goverment. You are under a black cloud that . This person have the major part of his family here in th US, he have children and a business. He was willing to die for the US. They owe him. He was brought to the US as a minor child. The US is his home. They owe him.

    1. Perhaps, but bawn by birth trump immigrant any day, anywhere. History has shown time and time again weh immigrant ppl get di shawt end a di stick when tings happen in a country. It nuh good fi ever get too comfortable as an immigrant, always memba seh dat country can ship you hope at any time fi any reason, and dem nuh unda no obligation to you. It’s up to the parents to teach dem small ones dis when dem teck dem inna strange man land. Him go into di military fi him own reasons, him caan come tell me seh him intentions were completely altruistic in di defense of di US and what dem stand for, come now, none a wi nuh bawn yessideh. As mi seh up top, nutten nuh happen by accident in dis worl, him ship home fi a reason, suh juss werk wid it.

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