Keith Byrne signs passport form which could lead to deportation
Lawyers pursue further legal avenues in last-minute bid to halt deportation
Keith and Keran byrne
Lawyers for Irishman Keith Byrne are pursuing further legal avenues in a last-minute bid to halt his deportation.
Mr Byrne signed an application for an Irish passport on Friday which could pave the way for his deportation.
While passport applications typically take two to three weeks, he is likely to be furnished instead with an emergency travel certificate (ETC) which is processed within days.
The ETC is typically given to Irish citizens awaiting deportation and whose passport has expired. Citizens then apply for a full passport when they return home.
“What we’re looking for is time,” his father Joe told The Irish Times. “Playing for time is the strategy.”
The 37-year-old Cork native was arrested by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials last week, having overstayed his ESTA visa waiver when he entered the country in 2007. The father-of-three married his American wife Keran two years later. His green card applications were refused due to previous minor offences for marijuana possession.
Mr Byrne had been given a deadline of Friday to sign the passport form which would allow him to be deported. If not, he faced being detained for a year or longer after which he will be tried in the courts.
Mr Byrne’s legal team confirmed on Friday that they are considering further litigation in a bid to halt Mr Byrne’s deportation or to secure a hearing before an immigration court.
Mr Byrne’s legal team had been seeking to have his fines for cannabis possession in Ireland vacated, arguing that they were not admissible in the United States. In particular, they have cited the so-called ‘John Lennon’ principle whereby the United States permitted the Beatles star to live in the United States despite previous convictions in Britain for possession of cannabis.
In legal filings lodged this week, Thomas Griffin, the Philadelphia-based lawyer representing Mr Byrne, requests that authorities stop the imminent removal of Mr Byrne and allow him make his case before an immigration judge.
Noting that Mr Byrne has had no dealings with police since arriving from Ireland on the Visa Waiver Program in 2007 he said that Mr Byrne “has never been a danger to the community and he is not a national security risk.”
“With a family of US citizens who depend on him, home-ownership and a successful tax-paying business Mr Byrne is not a flight-risk,” Mr Griffin wrote in a letter to Simona Flores, director of enforcement and removal operations for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agency in Philadelphia.
“Mr Byrne’s custody has already torn him from his family, and his US citizen wife Keren and his three US citizen children who are on the verge of a massive upending of their lives,” the letter notes.
Noting the support in the local Philadelphia community for Mr Byrne, as well as the extensive media coverage internationally, Mr Griffin notes that Mr Byrne runs one of the best and most-well known residential and commercial painting companies in the greater Philadelphia area. “Mr Byrne has consistently abided by the law, and has regularly paid business and personal taxes,” he writes.
He also notes that Mr Byrne’s family will likely lose their house in the event of deportation as the mortgage is more than half of Keren’s nursing salary.
Also included in the filing is a statement by Mr Byrne’s wife, Keren. “This hurts,” she writes. “Even though we knew this day might come nothing could have prepared me and us for what this feeling is.” Noting that the family has been “judicially and very methodically trying to ensure Keith’s permanent and legal residence in the United States,” she said: “We have been nothing but honest during all proceedings and applications for citizenship.”
“He did not come here to “pull on the system,” he is working hard every day and contributing to society and most importantly to our home and our children. He is raising proud Americans who will know what it is like to work hard for what they want and what they need.”