The sister of an Irishman facing deportation from the US says his family is devastated by his arrest.
Keith Byrne, a married father of three originally from Cork, has lived in the US for 12 years and runs his own business.
Keith, who has been married to a US citizen for 10 years, was detained last week as he made his way to work near his home on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
The incident comes amid President Donald Trump’s latest crackdown on illegal immigrants in the US.
Keith, 37, from Fermoy in Co Cork, moved to the US in 2007. He married his wife Keren in 2009 and the couple have two children – Leona, 6, and Gabriel, 4. He is also stepfather to Mrs Byrne’s 13-year-old son Ezra, his family said.
He originally travelled to the US on the Visa Waiver Programme but did not leave when his permitted time in the country expired. He has been attempting to secure citizenship for around 10 years.
It is understood those efforts have been complicated by two convictions related to cannabis possession when he was a younger man in Ireland, and he had been concerned about the prospect of deportation.
Keith, who has his own painting company, was on his way to work when he was arrested by officers from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Wednesday morning.
He is now facing deportation back to Ireland, potentially later this month.
A GoFundMepage set up by a cousin of the family, Jeff Snader, raised around $17,000 of a $50,000 target within 24 hours.
Mr Snader said: “In this great country we get a lot of things right. But there is nothing right with the deportation of Keith Byrne.
“He is a dedicated member of society, a tax paying entrepreneur, a loving father and stepfather of three children, a man of the household who cares deeply for his wife and a patriot of the United States of America.”
His family say he faces deportation after being denied a visa because of a minor drug possession charge from his time in Ireland.
Keith's sister Melinda says they are hoping US officials see sense and let him stay:
"He was always open and honest - he went to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) directly working with immigration authorities in 2010 to adjust his status.
"But unfortunately, his application and subsequent appeal have been denied," she added.
A spokesman for the ICE said: “In 2007, Keith Byrne, 37, a citizen of Ireland, entered the United States as a non-immigrant under the Visa Waiver Programme and failed to depart the United States under the terms of his admission.
“ICE arrested him July 10 for immigration violations and issued him a visa waiver removal order. He is currently in ICE custody pending removal.”
Additional reporting PA