Monday 16 September 2019

Irishman Keith Byrne given until Friday to leave United States or face significant jail time

However, if he leaves US - where his wife and family live - he may never be readmitted

Keith Byrne married Keren Zaga in 2009
Keith Byrne married Keren Zaga in 2009

Evie Kearney

The Irishman facing deportation from the US has been given until Friday to agree to leave or else face significant jail time, his family has said.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Keith Byrne's sister Melinda Maupeu Byrne said that her brother was presented a deal to sign documentation to leave the US by Friday - but refusal could mean up to four years in jail.

Family life: Keith and Keren with children Leona (right), Gabriel and Mr Byrne’s stepson Ezra
Family life: Keith and Keren with children Leona (right), Gabriel and Mr Byrne’s stepson Ezra
Keith Byrne with stepson Ezra (13) and children Leona (6) and Gabriel (4)

However, if he agrees to leave the US - where he lives with his wife and young family - by Friday, he may not ever get back in.

Agreeing to the deal would impose a five-year minimum ban on re-entry to the US, with no guarantee that the restriction would ever be lifted.

If Mr Byrne refuses to leave this week, he would remain in jail where it could be at least one year before his case is heard in a federal court.

The family are now hoping for a deportation appeal to be heard by a US immigration judge.  

(L-R) Keren, Leona, Keith, Gabriel and Ezra
(L-R) Keren, Leona, Keith, Gabriel and Ezra

Ms Maupeu Byrne said they are pleading to "whomever has the discretionary power" to give Mr Byrne that discretion and allow his case to move forward.

"We are making a plea under the exceptional circumstances," she said.

"We understand it's on a case by case basis and we have to respect the process."

She said exceptional circumstances include how Mr Byrne's wife, Keren Zaga, and children Leona (6) and Gabriel (4), as well as thirteen-year-old stepson Ezra, would have difficulty relocating to Ireland as Ezra would be divided from his father in the US.

"The family circumstances are so difficult, so we have to keep trying," she said.

The family have been contacted by the Department of Foreign Affairs who are providing "all consular assistance as appropriate."

US Congressman Brendan Boyle has also said he is working to delay the deportation because the removal "does nothing to improve the United States."

The Irish-American told Morning Ireland today that there are "a few different avenues" being pursued, but that he could not comment further on the case for legal reasons.

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

He married Ms Zaga in 2009 and the couple live in Springfield, Pennsylvania, where he runs a painting business. Mr Byrne managed to build a legal life there including getting his driving license and buying a home.

In 2010, the family applied for Mr Byrne’s status as a permanent citizen, expecting a simple process due to him 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.

Keith Byrne's father Seamus told Cork's 96fm that his son's appeal being denied because of minor marijuana charges was "like getting a life sentence for speeding."

According to him, his son voluntarily disclosed the charges on a a green card application because he wanted to "do it right."

Mr Byrne has been held in Pike County Correctional Facility in north-east Pennsylvania since his arrest last Wednesday.

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