Monday 16 September 2019

Irishman Keith Byrne 'happy but overwhelmed' as he is freed from US detention centre in visa row

Together again: Keith Byrne and his wife Keren on the way home after he was released
Photo: Jackie Fox/RTE
Together again: Keith Byrne and his wife Keren on the way home after he was released Photo: Jackie Fox/RTE
Keith Byrne and Keren Zaga
Keith Byrne's children (pictured) are US citizens
Keith Byrne with stepson Ezra (13) and children Leona (6) and Gabriel (4)
Immigration: Keith Byrne with wife Keren Zaga, baby boy Gabriel, step-son Ezra and daughter Leona
(L-R) Keren, Leona, Keith, Gabriel and Ezra

Evie Kearney and Allison Bray

Corkman Keith Byrne was "happy but overwhelmed" at being released from a US detention centre last night after more than two weeks over an issue with his visa.

His sister Melinda Byrne said she spoke with him at around 7pm and her 37-year-old brother was delighted to be out of custody.

However, she said he is not out of the woods yet - but is nevertheless relieved he will not be immediately deported to Ireland.

"He's happy but overwhelmed," she told the Irish Independent last night. Although he still has legal and immigration hurdles ahead of him, she said "even the fact he's out is a positive sign".

Keith with Keren, baby boy Gabriel, step-son Ezra and daughter Leona
Keith with Keren, baby boy Gabriel, step-son Ezra and daughter Leona

Immigration lawyer Thomas Griffin said Chief Judge Christopher Conner had ordered the release of Mr Byrne.

Mr Byrne's legal team filed an emergency petition for a writ of habeas corpus on Wednesday morning.

Mr Griffin said they hope to prove Mr Byrne was "arbitrarily and capriciously" detained under the Administrative Procedure Act.

Mr Byrne will be freed from the Pike County Correctional Facility in north-east Pennsylvania as he continues to fight to legalise his status in the US.

The lawyer said the argument is largely based on technicalities, but they are hoping for a good outcome as the case is "black and white".

Mr Byrne will return to his young family in Pennsylvania and be reunited with wife Keren Zaga, children Leona (6), Gabriel (4), and stepson Ezra (13).

(L-R) Keren, Leona, Keith, Gabriel and Ezra
(L-R) Keren, Leona, Keith, Gabriel and Ezra

"It's not over yet but he'll be able to fight it while he's at home with his family," Mr Griffin said.

"There's a lot of logistical stuff and they might drag their feet but we hope he'll be out today."

Keith Byrne originally entered the US in 2007 under a visa waiver programme before meeting his future wife later that year.

Married

In 2010, he applied for status as a permanent citizen, expecting a simple process due to being married to and the father of US citizens.

Because of two minor marijuana possession charges from Mr Byrne's early 20s in Ireland, and his breach of the visa waiver programme, his application and subsequent appeals were denied and he was ordered to be deported.

The 37-year-old was originally expected to be deported last week after signing documents for an Irish passport.

However, Mr Griffin said a technicality with the final denial of a green card application was discovered and it is on that basis that Mr Byrne was released.

Irish Independent

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