Wednesday 21 August 2019

US judge orders release of Irishman Keith Byrne

'It's not over yet but he'll be able to fight it while he's at home with his family'

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
Happily married: Keith Byrne and Keren Zaga – a US citizen – tied the knot 10 years ago

Evie Kearney

A US judge has ordered the release of Cork man Keith Byrne who has been held in a detention centre since July 10.

His family are hopeful that Mr Byrne could be released from custody as early as today, and that he will not be immediately deported to Ireland, his lawyer has said.

Speaking to Independent.ie, immigration lawyer Thomas Griffin said that Chief Judge Christopher Conner ordered the release of Mr Byrne at around 4pm yesterday.

Mr Byrne's legal team filed an emergency petition for a writ of habeus corpus on Wednesday morning and the judge ordered the release that afternoon.

Mr Griffin said they hope to prove that Mr Byrne was "arbitrarily and capriciously" detained under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

Mr Byrne will be freed from the Pike County Correctional Facility in north-east Pennsylvania as he continues to fight to legalise his status in the US.

Immigration: Keith Byrne with wife Keren Zaga, baby boy Gabriel, step-son Ezra and daughter Leona
Immigration: Keith Byrne with wife Keren Zaga, baby boy Gabriel, step-son Ezra and daughter Leona

The lawyer said the argument is largely based on technicalities, but that they are hoping for a good outcome as the case is "black and white."

Mr Byrne will now get to return to his young family in Pennsylvania and will be reunited with wife Keren Zaga, children Leona (6), Gabriel (4), and stepson Ezra (13).

"It's not over yet but he'll be able to fight it while he's at home with his family," Mr Griffin said.

"There's a lot of logistical stuff and they might drag their feet but we hope he'll be out today."

Keith Byrne originally entered the US in 2007 under a visa waiver programme before meeting his future wife later that year. In 2010, he applied for 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.

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

However, Mr Griffin said that a technicality with the final denial of a green card application was discovered and it is on that basis that My Byrne will be temporarily released today.

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