Keith Byrne’s sister calls on Government to try persuade US allow him plead case
Keith Byrne had social security number, paid taxes and was in contact with ICE following marriage
Keith and Keran Byrne met the week Keith was due to return to Ireland having outstayed his visa.
The sister of an Irish man facing deportation from the US has called on the Government to use its influence to try to persuade US authorities to allow him plead his case before an immigration judge.
Melinda Byrne from Fermoy in north Cork said her brother Keith (37) is facing the prospect of separation from his wife and family in Montgomery County outside Philadelphia, after being arrested by US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officers last Wednesday.
Ms Byrne said her brother, one of a family of 11 from Beechfield in Fermoy, was on his way to work where he has built up a successful painting and decorating business, when he was arrested at the side of the road by ICE officers.
She said Mr Byrne now faces being deported to Ireland, removing him from his wife, Keran; stepson, Ezra (13); daughter, Leona (6); and son Gabriel (4) with whom he set up home, buying a new house just last February.
Ms Byrne said her brother had originally gone to America in 2007 on a US Visa Waiver Programme but had overstayed that by a number of months and was planning to return to Ireland when he met Keran the week he was planning to leave and decided to stay on.
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Speaking to the Neil Prendeville Show on Cork’s Red FM, Ms Byrne said the couple “fell madly in love and married a year later”. Mr Byrne later set about trying to regularise his position in the US by paying a financial contribution for his failure to abide by the visa programme.
However, in the course of attempting to regularise matters, he volunteered information to his lawyer that he had a conviction in Ireland for simple possession of cannabis and that was included in his application for citizenship.
Ms Byrne told The Irish Times her brother, while applying for US citizenship in 2010, following his marriage to Keran in 2008, had obtained a social security number, paid taxes and obtained a driving licence and had been in contact with ICE on a regular basis.
However, he had recently lost an appeal to grant his residency because of his two Irish drug convictions for simple possession, is father said at the weekend, and is now being held in the Pike County Correctional Facility, a prison in Philadelphia, facing deportation.
Ms Byrne said one of the challenges facing her brother is that because he went to America on the US Visa Waiver Programme, he does not have a right to appeal the decision to a US immigration judge, save in exceptional circumstances.
“But the US government does have the discretion in extreme circumstances to allow someone appeal to an immigration judge and we’re hoping that the Irish Government can use its influence to persuade the US authorities to allow Keith appeal to an immigration judge,” she said.
Ms Byrne said the family is not asking the Government to seek citizenship as they “fully accept there is a process that has to be gone through” for that.
“All we are asking is the chance for Keith to appeal his deportation before an immigration judge so that he and his family are not split up.”
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said it was aware of the case and was in contact with both Mr Byrne and his family members in the US and Ireland and was “providing all possible consular assistance as appropriate”.