'I was scared. I was very scared' says Corkman Keith Byrne on immigration arrest

'I was scared. I was very scared' says Corkman Keith Byrne on immigration arrest

The Irishman who has been facing deportation from the US has said he was "very scared" when he was arrested.

Keith Byrne, originally from Fermoy, Cork, was arrested earlier this month by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers but he was released from prison last week.

Mr Byrne originally moved to the US in 2007.

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.

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.

Speaking about his arrest, Mr Byrne told RTÉ News that he had been afraid.

"When I was pulled over, I was wondering why I was pulled over first.

"And then when they came to my window and I saw that it was ICE I was immediately scared and confused.

"Because we've been fighting for a long time to make things right, so to pounce on me the way they did, it was pretty shocking.

"I was scared. I was very scared."

Mr Byrne said he was handcuffed and taken to a detention centre and he was taken to Pike County Prison later that day.

He described being in jail "with who knows who" as "awful".

He said he was scared in the jail at the beginning but said "more than anything else I was just heartbroken.

"Because my babies, my wife, my business, my customers, my life was just...everything I'd worked so hard for was gone. And without warning."

Mr Byrne said it was a "huge step" that his lawyer got him out of prison and he was "excited" to speak with him.

When asked about his struggle to get a green card, Mr Byrne said:

"Well I have previous convictions from Ireland, for personal use of marijuana." he told RTÉ News.

"I mean, it's kind of embarrassing. It's a 14-year-old fine that I paid in court.

"So I don't know what message people are giving out by sending me home over that.

"I've made a good life for myself. I've paid my penalty."

He added that "nothing good" comes from sending him back to Ireland.

"I'm optimistic. I'm hopeful," said My Bryne when asked where his head was right now.

"I'm just going to leave it with the law and hopefully my lawyers can make it happen. I'm just going to keep working hard. Keep doing what I was doing."


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