Friday 20 September 2019

'I just want it over' - hope rises for father-of-three in US deportation nightmare

Keith Byrne and Keren Zaga
Keith Byrne and Keren Zaga

Olivia Kelleher

A father-of-three who has been granted a 90-day extension while he awaits a decision on his appeal against deportation from the US has returned to work at his small painting firm.

Keith Byrne from Fermoy, Co Cork, said he just wants to be able to get on with life with his family. Mr Byrne was detained without warning by immigration officials as he travelled to work on July 10 from his home outside Philadelphia.

He was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and held at Pike County Jail as a review of his immigration status was conducted. He was initially given a 30-day reprieve, now extended for 90 more days.

Mr Byrne entered the United States in 2007 but overstayed his 90-day visa waiver. He subsequently married his wife Keren in 2009.

She is American and the couple have three children. However, Mr Byrne's attempts to obtain a Green Card have failed due to two minor drug possession charges in Ireland.

Mr Byrne told the 'Neil Prendeville Show' on Cork's Red FM his arrest was a small price to pay given what is at stake.

"It's catapulted everything forward because before ICE it was moving very slowly. Yesterday morning I went to the ICE office and they gave me 90 more days because we gave them paperwork proving that we are moving forward with the case.

"We have filed everything we had to file. As of today I am back to work.

"For the last almost 10 years we have been dealing with this. Our lawyer is pretty confident. He has a gut feeling we are going to get it right in the end."

Mr Byrne hopes this is the final furlong in his long journey with immigration.

"I just want it over," he said. "It is too long. It has become my life. I don't want this life. I want to focus on my children. Keep working on my business. And not worry about being picked up and deported."

Mr Byrne says he and Keren have made a good life for themselves. However, he misses relatives in Ireland.

"I fell into painting. I was doing building work in Ireland," he said. "When I came here I couldn't find block work. I fell in with a painting company and I was there three years. And it was like a snowball effect.

"I had four guys employed for me before I was arrested but now I am down to two."

Irish Independent

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