THE brother of a Fermoy man at the centre of an immigration storm in the US has said his family desperately want him released from the detention centre he is being held in.
Keith Byrne, aged 37, was arrested on his way to work in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, in a Trump administration crackdown on illegal immigrants.
He is awaiting deportation despite being married to US citizen Keren and being resident in the United States since 2007. He is being held at a facility in Pike County.
His brother Greg Byrne told The Echo that Keith hasn’t set foot in Ireland in the last 12 years and would find it very difficult to adapt to life back here having made his life in the US by setting up a business, buying a home and being a parent to two children and a stepfather to one.
“We need to get him out of [the detention centre] as soon as possible. He’s very down. He’s a really good lad but he feels like this is all his fault with his past being dragged up again and again. He really misses the kids.
“He hasn’t been home in 12 years. He’s an American in his language, the way he speaks and his thoughts and actions.
“We don’t know when [he could be deported], it could be tomorrow, in a couple of weeks or he could be there for a month. We are hoping to get some more information today,” Greg added.
Despite never receiving citizenship, Mr Byrne has been allowed to work in the States and received a social security number from authorities. He has been actively seeking citizenship since 2010 but two cannabis possession charges in Ireland have complicated the process, despite Mr Byrne declaring them from the beginning.
Greg has said stressed that Keith is not an illegal immigrant and has complied with immigration officials and met all criteria for working rights since being in the US. He has never hid from officials.
“He is not undocumented and he is not an illegal immigrant. He overstayed a work visa by two years but he has made a financial commitment to the process and paid a waiver to get to the next stage. He has been pursuing it for the last nine years,” he added.
The Northern committee of Cork County Council has passed a motion brought forward by Fermoy-based councillor Noel McCarthy (FG) calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Tánaiste Simon Coveney to look into the case.
“This could be a test case for a lot of Irish in America,” said Mr McCarthy.
Frank O’Flynn (FF) said the community in Fermoy is right behind Keith.
“This is a man that we are led to believe has a driving licence and has never been in trouble with the authorities, a family man that was running a business and has been an upstanding human being.
“I would urge the Tánaiste to make his case and would hope the American authorities would show some compassion.”