Wednesday 18 September 2019

'I just want it over' - Keith Byrne returns to work in the US after being granted 90 day extension

Keith Byrne and Keren Zaga
Keith Byrne and Keren Zaga

Olivia Kelleher

An Irish 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 told the Neil Prendeville show on Cork's Red FM that he just wants to be able to continue living the American dream with his beloved family.

Mr Byrne was detained without warning by US immigration officials as he travelled to work on July 10th from his home outside Philadelphia.

He was shackled and taken to a detention centre by ICE officers but was ultimately released from custody at Pike County Jail as a review of his immigration status was conducted. He was initially given a 30 day reprieve. However, this has now been extended for another 90 days.

‘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

In a radio interview today he said that 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 ninety 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 ten years now 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 is hoping that this is the final furlong in his long journey with immigration in the US.

"I just want it over. 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. I was pretty happy yesterday. I am hoping that we hear back from immigration sooner rather than later."

Keith says he and his wife Karen have made a good life for themselves. However, he misses relatives in Ireland.

Keith Byrne and his wife Keren on the way home after he was released. Credit: Jackie Fox/RTE
Keith Byrne and his wife Keren on the way home after he was released. Credit: Jackie Fox/RTE

"I fell in to painting. I was doing building work in Ireland. 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. I was away for three weeks. That was three weeks of no work for them. I haven't seen my parents since 2007. It is tough."

He believes the intervention of ICE may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

"Before ICE things were moving pretty slowly. And now it is front page everywhere."

Ultimately, his big dream is to get a Green Card and return home to Cork to see his parents.

"I would like to go back to Ireland to see my parents and have a breakfast roll! When I left Ireland I had never seen much of it. I would like to go home often and see more of it."

Mr Byrne entered the US in 2007 but overstayed his 90-day visa waiver. He subsequently got married to 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.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News