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Do we really want to be deporting our New Jersey veterans?
Howard Dean Baily, veteran, husband to a U.S. citizen and father to two U.S. citizen children, and small business owner was deported after filing for naturalization. He joined his mother in the U.S. when he was 17 in 1989 from Jamaica as a lawful permanent resident. He finished high school in the U.S. and then went to the navy. In 2001 he married his wife Judith. Shortly thereafter, a navy friend asked him if he could use his address for some packages. Thinking nothing of it, Howard said yes. When the packages arrived he called his friend and asked what he wanted to do with them? Friend asked if he could drop them off. Leaving his house, the police pulled him over for possessing drugs with the intent to distribute. The police new the packages had drugs and were following the packages. Howard plead guilty to an aggravated felony and did 15 months in jail, rather than risk a more serious offense. No one told him there would be any immigration consequences. Years later, he decided to become a U.S., citizen and filed for naturalization. He didn’t initially hire an attorney. He was married to a U.S. citizen, had two U.S. citizen kids, a military veteran, and the owner of a thriving business. He was shocked when in 2010 police and ICE showed up at his door to arrest him. Two years later, he was deported to Jamaica. The problem is our Immigration Judges have no discretion. Mr. Bailey was convicted of an aggravated felony. Because of that, our legislature has prevented Immigration Judges from looking at Mr. Bailey as a person and asking the fundamental question, are we better off without Mr. Bailey in the U.S.? Is he a danger to society or his community? Is this any way to reward those who serve in our country? The sad part is all of this could have been avoided. Although Mr. Bailey doesn’t live in New Jersey, had he contracted with Andres Mejer Law before filing his naturalization petition his life would be very different. At Andres Mejer Law, we order a criminal background and driving history search for every client, before filing any application. The results would have showed us the conviction. I would have told him not to file or suggest he try and undo the conviction through a Post-Conviction Relief motion before filing. The fact that his deportation could have been avoided does not change the absurdity of our immigration system. It only goes to highlight why detention and enforcement must be a part of any immigration reform.