Wife of Irish man facing deportation says all she has is hope

‘I’m putting my energy into getting him in front of a judge,’ says Keran Byrne ahead of Keith’s Friday deadline

Keith Byrne with his wife Keran.

Keith Byrne with his wife Keran.

 

The wife of an Irish man who is due to be deported by immigration authorities in the US has said she has not given up on efforts to get him released and all they have is hope.

Keith Byrne (37)from Fermoy in Cork, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Philadelphia while travelling to work last Wednesday. He has been told to leave the country by Friday or face going to prison.

Keran Byrne said he has been left “with no choice” but to sign papers for a passport application to allow authorities to send him home.

However they had not given up on efforts to get him released. “All I have is hope. That is all we have. ......I’m putting my energy into getting him in front of a judge so we can get him released,”she told RTÉ Radio One Drivetime on Thursday.

He originally travelled to the US in 2007 on a visa-waiver programme but overstayed his visa. The father-of-three married his wife Keran two years later and established his own business in Philadelphia. His applications for a green card following his marriage were refused due to previous minor offences for the possession of marijuana.

US lawyers representing Mr Byrne have made a last-ditch plea for leniency to US authorities amid growing expectations he will be deported on Friday.

In legal filings lodged this week, Thomas Griffin, the Philadelphia-based lawyer representing Mr Byrne, requests authorities stop his imminent removal of and allow him make his case before an immigration judge.

Ms Byrne said she did not get to see her husband on the morning he was detained by ICE officers.

“We heard a knock at the door and it was an ICE officer. He had Keith’s phone and keys. He said that he had picked him up,that he would be detained and we would not be able to see him right away. We were told to wait for his phone call later that day and he couldn’t tell me anything more,” she said.

“Immediately, I called my lawyer and whoever I needed to call. It has just been a nightmare ever since.. it has been the worst thing imaginable.” she said.

Ms Byrne said it never occurred to them that he could be detained by ICE officers.

“Yes, we always knew it would-be possible that he would have to go back to Ireland and make those arrangements but it never occurred to us that they would knock on our door and take him away. They didn’t even knock on the door, they picked him up off the street,” she said.

“A few years ago our lawyer enquired about a potential threat by ICE and they told our lawyer he was not a person of interest. He’s not a security risk or a criminal.He’s a tax paying entrepreneur with a family and we were still working on adjusting his status,” she said.

“I have to make it clear. He is not an undocumented illegal immigrant. He has been here and been very documented and is trying every effort honestly to adjust his status and going through the legal system and being up-front and honest about his past and it has done nothing but hurt his situation at this point,” she said.

Ms Byrne said she is allowed to call him and update him on progress regarding his case but the information he is getting from the ICE officers is “one-sided”. “He is not getting any information. He is in a bubble. The only information he gets is from an ICE officer and their number one goal is to deport him. Any information he gets from them is extremely one sided and with the intent of getting him to comply with the deportation,” she said.

She said Keith is still in shock about his situation: “He hasn’t had the opportunity to process it all. He’s been held in a cage basically with no outside contact. He is extremely depressed. I know he feels guilty about the kids and about me. The last thing he needs to feel is guilty. This is not his fault at all. He’s really, really sad right now,” she said.

Mr Byrne was told he would be given a passport to leave by Friday, but which would also ban him from re-entering the US for five years.

If not, he will be detained for a year or longer after which he will be tried in the courts.

“The deadline for tomorrow is that he must sign a passport application. Then ICE can apply for his passport so they can put him on a plane to go home. If he doesn’t sign it , they can charge him criminally because it is a criminal offence to not comply with deportation so basically he is left with no choice but to sign it,” she said.

“They need to wait for the passport to be processed and my understanding is that is all they need to send him home. That will not stop all the work we are doing to get him in front of a judge and change this outcome,” she said.

“All I have is hope. That is all we have. My focus has been on getting him released. I don’t want to put energy into something that we are trying to stop if that makes sense. I’m putting my energy into getting him in front of a judge so we can get him released,” she said.

She said her children are aware of the situation and miss their father.

“I told the children we don’t have the right papers yet and we’re working on getting them so dad can come home. I told them all he wants to come home to see them and it is not his fault and he has done nothing wrong. I think they’re’re having a hard time, they’re very sad. They don’t understand...They miss him,” she said.

“Keith is one of the hardest workers you will meet. He came here with no money in his pockets and he has built with me a life that we shouldn’t have to leave behind,” she said.

Finally, she appealed to Irish politicians to reach out to people they know who can help him with his situation.