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Sunday 25 August 2019

Irishman facing deportation will 'fight to the last'

Keith Byrne and Keren Zaga
Keith Byrne and Keren Zaga

Niamh Lynch

The family of an Irishman facing deportation from the US say he will "fight to the last".

Keith Byrne's father Jim said he spoke to his son at Pike County Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania, where he has been held by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since last Wednesday.

"He's not going to give up, he says he's not going to throw 12 years away. He knows if he leaves, it's impossible to get back. So he's going to wait and listen to his lawyers.

"Today is the big day but he's had a lot of support. Last week, I would've said no he would sign, now maybe not. He's stubborn, he won't give in easy," said Jim.

"The shock has worn off but the shock of being away from his family will never wear off."

Mr Byrne, originally from Fermoy, Co Cork, entered the US in 2007 under the Visa Waiver Programme. His family say he overstayed his visa after meeting his future wife.

Mr Byrne married Keren Zaga in 2009 and they live in Springfield, Pennsylvania, with their children Leona (6) and Gabriel (4), and Mr Byrne's 13-year-old stepson Ezra.

His sister Melinda said the family were caught in a "waiting game".

Mr Byrne was given until today to agree to leave the country or face jail time.

Passport

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One's 'Drivetime', Mr Byrne's wife, Ms Zaga, said: "The deadline [today] is that he sign a passport application... and once that passport application is signed then ICE can apply for his passport, which is what they need to put him on a plane to go home.

"He has to sign it legally, otherwise he can be charged criminally, because it's a criminal offence to not comply with deportation. He has been left with no choice but to sign this application for a passport."

Refusal to sign the documents could result in up to four years in jail.

Irish Independent

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