Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Keith Byrne with his wife Keren. Photo: GoFundMe.

Keith Byrne’s brother, Greg, said Keith called him yesterday from Pike County detention centre and that an ICE official presented him with a deal.

Keith, 37, from Fermoy in Co Cork, moved to the US in 2007. He married Keran in 2009 and the couple have two children – Leona, 6, and Gabriel, 4. He is also stepfather to Mrs Byrne’s 13-year-old son Ezra, his family said.

He originally travelled to the US on the Visa Waiver Programme but did not leave when his permitted time in the country expired. He has been attempting to secure citizenship for around 10 years.

Mrs Byrne said earlier this week that it was “so unfair” that possession of marijuana for personal use charges from “many years ago” were halting his bid for citizenship.

Greg Byrne said that his brother has until Friday to sign documentation that would give him a passport to leave the country, but ban him from entering the US for five years.

After this time has passed, he would then have the opportunity to reapply for visiting rights to the United States. However, that application does not give him a guarantee that he is allowed to return.

Failure to sign the documentation, could result in up to four years in jail. Mr Byrne said he was told that he would also be brought to another jail and it would take more than a year for his case to be heard in front of a federal judge.

Mr Byrne said a US immigration judge only hears deportation appeals under exceptional circumstances.

The Byrne family is pleading for intervention from “the powers that be” to give discretion considering – what they say – is Mr Byrne’s contribution to American society.

“People see how hard he has worked. He is living the American Dream, but he worked hard for it.

I know he did wrong. He started with a holiday, but he fell in love. He didn’t go there for a wife, he went for a good time.

Greg Byrne also spoke about the effect the situation is having on Keith’s family.

He said Keith was very upset by the news, especially after a conversation yesterday with his son Gabriel from the detention centre.

He could sense from Gabriel’s voice that there was a change in his voice and he could sense the loss and he was very upset over that.

He believes he has destroyed their lives.

The family says this is an exceptional case – that he had his own business, paid taxes, was actively open and honest about his situation with officials.

His sister, Melinda Manpau, also said that the whole family cannot just simply all move back to Ireland due to family dynamics as Mr Byrne has a stepson, Ezra, in the US.

“I mean Ezra will be separated from his father and his family in the United States. Keith has reared him since he was two years old. So it’s not just a simple case of it’ll be easy to return to Ireland with the two children. That causes difficulties for Ezra and it’s dividing him from his father and extended family.”

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