Sunday 18 August 2019

'It's uncertain territory now' - Keith Byrne still in US and meeting legal team on Monday

  • Mr Byrne was released from detention on Thursday after over two weeks in limbo
  • The Cork man is spending time with his family this weekend
  • He was granted 30 days out of detention last week
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

Niamh Lynch

The Cork native caught in the midst of an immigration storm in the US is still in the country and now hoping to overcome the "long legal process", his family has said.

Keith Byrne's sister, Melinda told Independent.ie that her brother is "exhausted by the whole process" in which he was kept in detention for two weeks at the Pike County Correctional Facility.

“He’s overwhelmed - the family are taking time together this weekend and he’ll probably meet with his legal team on Monday.”

“We’re all relieved, it’s uncertain territory now. It’s an exceptional case, no one knows what to expect,” Ms Byrne said.

‘Taking the advice of those around him’: Keith Byrne with wife Keren Zaga, son Gabriel when he was born, stepson Ezra and daughter Leona
‘Taking the advice of those around him’: Keith Byrne with wife Keren Zaga, son Gabriel when he was born, stepson Ezra and daughter Leona

His sister also spoke of the “fierce excitement” on Thursday night following his release after over two weeks in legal limbo.

“It all happened very suddenly, we were screaming down the phone. Just thrilled, it’s unbelievable. He deserves it," she said on his release from the US detention centre.

Asked about her brother's reaction to the support from Ireland, Ms Byrne described it as "amazing".

“He can’t believe it. It’s amazing," she said.

“The supporters page at Change.org went from 5,000 last night to 39,000 when we woke up this morning. It’s incredible.

“I saw on Facebook, his neighbour had a fireworks display in his garden for him to celebrate," she added.

Keith Byrne and Keren Zaga
Keith Byrne and Keren Zaga

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

In a post on her Facebook page, Keith’s wife Keren, who he married in 2009, wrote: “This has been the hardest 2 weeks of my life. I want to thank everyone for lending me their hearts and carrying me through this.”

“My husband is home with his family today and it wouldn’t have been possible without all of you. Our story is not over and there is a long legal battle ahead of us but now he is free and can fight with us,” the post finished.

Mr Byrne was released after a ruling from Chief Judge Christopher Conner after the Corkman’s legal team filed an emergency petition for a writ of habeas corpus on Wednesday morning.

The judge granted a period of 30 days out of detention for Mr Byrne to “seek injunctive relief and judicial review of his final denial of adjustment of status in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania”.

However, it is unclear what the process entails after this period.

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

However, Mr Byrne’s lawyer Thomas 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.

Mr Byrne was reunited with his wife, children Leona (6), Gabriel (4), and stepson Ezra (13) in their home in Springfield, Pennsylvania.

He originally entered the US in 2007 under a visa waiver programme but overstayed the visa.

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.

A GoFundMe fundraising campaign has raised over $32,000 to help with Mr Byrne’s legal costs.

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