'Things are not looking good' for Cork man facing deportation from US

The American wife of an Irish man who has been threatened with deportation from the USA has said it is “so unfair” that possession of marijuana for personal use charges from “many years ago” are halting his bid for citizenship.

'Things are not looking good' for Cork man facing deportation from US

Update 10.30am: Senator Billy Lawless has acknowledged that “things are not looking good” for Fermoy man Keith Byrne who was arrested by ICE officials while on his way to work in Philadelphia last Wednesday.

Mr Byrne, a married father of three originally from Cork, has lived in the US for 12 years and runs his own business.

Mr Byrne, 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.

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.

“There’s always hope, but it’s not looking good,” Senator Lawless told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.

The Senator said that he has made an appeal for clemency for Mr Byrne and pointed out the difficulties that would face Mr Byrne’s American wife should she try to come to Ireland to join him.

He added that he was excluded from making representations, however, he was willing to try any avenue that was open.

Mr Byrne's sister, Melinda Byrne, claimed Keith was “easy pickings” for ICE officials.

He had provided all his information, they knew where he lived because he had started the process of applying for citizenship.

Mr Byrne’s arrest came as a shock to him and his family as he had been “making applications and appeals”, she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

He was not illegal, he was a documented individual. He had a social security number, a driving licence. He paid tax. So to be included as an illegal immigrant is incorrect.

“He was legal, but did not have citizenship. He was not in hiding.”

She explained that he had gone to the US on a holiday and met Keran, who was to become his wife, before he came home and decided to stay. In 2010 he made his application for citizenship.

“He did everything by the book. Now his world is turned upside down. His life is in America.

“He is unfortunate to be caught up in the current administration and their clampdown.”

On the same programme immigration lawyer James O’Malley, who is originally from Limerick, but is now based in New York, said that under the ESTA visitor visa system, if a person overstays they automatically waive the right to challenge the deportation system.

“The system is quite harsh. This administration is hell bent on making a statement on this issue. They are cavalier and unrealistic to say that millions will be deported.”

Legal challenges are a minefield, he added.

Earlier: Children 'need their dad back' says wife of Cork man facing deportation from US

The American wife of an Irish man who has been threatened with deportation from the USA has said it is “so unfair” that possession of marijuana for personal use charges from “many years ago” are halting his bid for citizenship.

Keran Byrne, wife of Fermoy man Keith Byrne, who was arrested on his way to work on Wednesday morning in Philadelphia, told Newstalk Breakfast that her husband had gone through all the correct legal channels to adjust his status.

“He was never undocumented. He went through all the channels. He started the process in 2010 to adjust his status. The entire time he’s been here he has taken legal steps. He was legally allowed to stay here.”

She said that he had been fined twice for possession of “a very small amount” of marijuana in Ireland in his early 20s. “Those little incidents have followed him here and destroyed his bid to become a citizen.

“It’s unfair that something so small should have an impact.”

Ms Byrne said she has been contacting all her local Congressmen asking them “to do something.”

The application of the law is “too black and white”, she added. “He is in a grey area.”

Each case should be taken individually but everyone “is being lumped together.”

The couple’s three children are all heartbroken and sad and “need their dad back,” she said.

Keith, 37, from Fermoy in Co Cork, moved to the US in 2007. He married Keran 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.

A GoFundMe page set up by a cousin of the family, Jeff Snader, raised around $19,000 of a $50,000 target.

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.”

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

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