Keith Byrne thanks public for 'overwhelming' support amid immigration battle

An Irish father of three who is trying to avoid deportation from the US said he is hoping to be allowed to continue living the American dream with his beloved family.

Keith Byrne thanks public for 'overwhelming' support amid immigration battle

An Irish father of three who is trying to avoid deportation from the US said he is hoping to be allowed to continue living the American dream with his beloved family.

Keith Byrne from Fermoy, Co Cork said that he was delighted to be released from custody as a review of his immigration status was conducted.

Mr Byrne told the Neil Prendeville Show on Cork’s Red FM that he had tried to do everything legally possible to regularise his status in the US over the last nine years.

"My weekend was very good - but I'm absolutely exhausted," he said.

"It was amazing to get home - I feel very lucky, very fortunate. It is not something I thought would happen. I am still in shock.

When I went in there (Pike County Jail) I was heartbroken. I didn't feel scared but I was heartbroken. They jumped on me like I was a criminal. I had tried for nine years to get things sorted and I thought I deserved a bit better than that.

The Cork man was detained without warning by US immigration officials as he travelled to work a fortnight ago from his home outside Philadelphia.

"I think that is why I was released because it was clearly an error," he said.

"It was all emotional because I had built a great life here. We are all so close - my wife, my children and myself.

"I was in shock. I could not believe it was happening. We have tried so hard and been so honest and upfront about everything. It was heartbreaking what happened.

"So many people are saying I am undocumented and overstayed my visa for 12 years. As soon as I was married to my wife I went and tried to get things sorted out in 2010. I was never undocumented. I have been trying really hard to get my status sorted out."

Mr Byrne admitted to being completely taken aback by the public support since his detention.

"We have had so much support - it is overwhelming," he said.

"When I had a work permit I worked for a US firm as a painter. I worked for them for three years. Then I branched out myself and things went crazy - it was very successful.

"For the past 10 years I have had a really successful business. I have employed American people. If I go back, they become unemployed - and I become unemployed.

"I have sacrificed so much in order to do the right thing here and become a citizen. I have not seen my parents in 12 years and that has hurt me a lot. But I know that if I do things the right way, things will hopefully work out."

Mr Byrne said he had heard some good and bad stories about Green Cards.

"I think it depends. I just don't know. That is why I am trying to do the right thing."

He warned that this deportation would cause nothing but pain for his family.

"Not only Ezra (stepson) but Keren's mum who has moved into our home so we can care for her in her latter years. There is a lot of things that will go wrong if I am deported."

He said he couldn't begin to imagine what would occur if his deportation was ordered.

"Temporarily I would come home alone - but my wife has assured me we will be together for the rest of our lives. So we will have to make adjustments.

"I don't want our lives to be torn apart by something I did. I work really hard so we can have a good life. But if everyone is going to be uprooted over a silly mistake I made 14 years ago.

"I was very young. It was minor, It was embarrassing. Every time I explain myself to someone it is so embarrassing - my whole future is up in the air over something so small."

Many years ago Mr Byrne faced a minor charge of cannabis possession in Cork.

He now has thirty days to fight the deportation.

"I am kind of scared, to be honest. My confidence is totally shocked because of the way they pounced on me and almost got me out of the country.

"I left my house and they (immigration officers) immediately followed me from my house.

"This unmarked car followed me for three blocks, pulled me over and arrested me. I said to them: 'What are you doing? You need to call my lawyer.' It was a horrible experience - they treated my like a criminal. They handcuffed me and even shackled my feet.

"It was terrible. I have been here for 12 years, working and building a future for my family. It was totally uncalled for."

Mr Byrne said he appreciates the support in Ireland.

"I am sure (Irish politicians) are helping - all I know is that we have had great support from the Irish media.

"The support has been amazing and I just want to say 'thank you'. We are hoping ...hopefully we are the family that gets it right and not the family that gets used as an example. I have spent so many years working from 7am to 7pm - I have worked so hard to be the person I am today."

In 12 years I haven't even spoken to a police officer over here. A lot of things should count - I have built the American dream here.

"My life has been so hard not being able to travel back to Ireland. It has caused a lot of pain. I hope to reach a time where I can travel back and forth. It is so up in the air at the moment. Until I speak to my lawyer, I just don't know.

"I am so grateful to be here (at home) and not in prison where I was for 15 days. It was just awful. It breaks my heart to see people go through that who do not deserve it.

"I think I am just another number, to be honest. I just don't know. I don't have enemies here - I have just friends, family and customers here."

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