Cork man faces deportation after Trump's US immigration crackdown
A Cork man who has been living in America for 12 years, and has been married to a US citizen for almost a decade, faces imminent deportation as the Trump administration cracks down on unauthorised immigrants.
Keith Byrne (37), originally from Fermoy, Co Cork, was arrested last Wednesday by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and now awaits deportation back to Ireland.
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Mr Byrne has lived in America since 2007, when he travelled there under the Visa Waiver Programme. After meeting his wife Keren Zaga as his visa approached its end, he decided to stay in America.
He overstayed his allowed term and married Ms Zaga in 2009. They live in Springfield, Pennsylvania with their children Leona (6) and Gabriel (4), as well as Ezra (13), who is Ms Zaga's child from another relationship. Ms Zaga said that her husband's arrest and probable deportation is tearing her family apart.
"It has had a huge effect in every aspect," she said. "Emotionally, he's like the rock of our family...
"He runs a business here that supports our family. I'm not going to be able to keep this house that we just bought without him being here.
"I told my four-year-old and my six-year-old where he is in a very simple way, so they can understand that he may not be able to come home and they understand that he might have to leave, but they're very upset and confused."
In 2010, the family applied for Mr Byrne's status as a permanent citizen, expecting a simple process due to him being married, and the father of US citizens. However because of two minor cannabis possession charges in Ireland when he was in his early 20s, and his breach of the visa waiver programme, his application and subsequent appeals were denied and he was ordered to be deported.
Mr Byrne had managed legally to build a life in the US. After receiving work authorization and a Social Security number he started a painting business which supported his wife through college, and, in February his family moved into their dream house.
He was arrested on the way to work last Wednesday however, as his family prepared for a day at the waterpark, and he is currently detained at the Pike County Correctional Facility in north-east Pennsylvania, three hours away from his home.
Adrian Smith, a spokesperson for ICE said that despite the appeals, the planned deportation will still go ahead.
"In 2007, Keith Byrne entered the United States as a non-immigrant under the Visa Waiver Programme and failed to depart the United States under the terms of his admission," he said.
"ICE arrested him on July 10 for immigration violations and issued him a visa waiver removal order. He is currently in ICE custody pending removal."
His arrest came as part of nationwide raids by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which began last Sunday and will continue until Wednesday.
Although the numbers have not yet been reported, thousands of immigrants are thought to have been arrested in the raids, which Donald Trump claimed are part of a process to remove "millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States". In April, Mr Trump promised to crack down on immigrants who overstay their visas.