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Irishman detained in the US told to leave the country by Friday or face prison

He has until Friday to sign paperwork allowing him to leave the US but banning him from re-entering for five years.

Keith with wife Karen
Keith with wife Karen
Image: GoFundMe

An Irishman detained by immigration authorities in the US has been told to leave the country by Friday or face going to prison.

Keith Byrne, from Fermoy in Cork, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Philadelphia while travelling to work last Wednesday.

He originally travelled to the US in 2007 on a visa-waiver programme but overstayed his visa.

The father-of-three married his wife Karen two years later and established his own business in Philadelphia.

However, applications for a green card following his marriage were turned down due to previous minor offences for the possession of marijuana.

He is being detained at Pike County Correctional facility and speaking on RTÉ’s morning Ireland programme on Radio 1 this morning, his brother, Greg Byrne said he was told that he has until Friday to leave the country or face going to prison.

“Alot of people, especially in the town of Fermoy have seen over the years how hard Keith has worked. He has become an entrepreneur,” he said.

“This is a man who had very little when he went to America, he really was living that American dream but he worked very hard for it.

“He lives for his family. He adores Karen, Gabriel, Leon and Ezra. It’s just a very difficult time for our family at the moment. ”

Keith was told that he would be given a passport to leave by Friday, but which would also ban him from re-entering the US for five years, after which he could apply for a visitor’s visa. 

Otherwise, he will be detained for a year or longer after which he will be tried in the courts. 

“After getting that news he was very down, he spoke with his boy today, he spoke with Gabriel, he could sense in Gabriel’s voice that there was a change in his voice.

“He could sense the loss. He’s upset over that. He mightn’t see his son for a year, a year and a half, so it’s very difficult. He believes he’s destroyed their lives. He’ll regret it for the rest of his life.

“I know Kieth has wronged, but I would plead with people’s sympathy. It all started with a holiday in America, he met his wife, he fell in love. Keith wasn’t going out there for a wife, he was going out there for a good time.”

His sister Melinda also spoke on the programme and said it would divide his family completely as he has a stepson.

“I mean, Ezra will be separated from his father and his grandparents and family in the United States. Keith has reared him from two years old so it’s not just a simple case of it’ll be easy to return with the two children.

“That causes difficulties for Ezra and it’s dividing him from his stepfather and his extended family also. We are making a plea because of the circumstance we have, and the good people we have involved – a family.”

US congressman Brendan Boyle, who has been liaising with the family, said there are a few avenues of inquiry being looked at in a bid to extend the 37-year-old’s time in America.  

“There are a few different avenues we’re pursuing. I do want to be careful about the extent to which I speak about this publicly. So I would say I’m not necessarily optimistic that we are going to be able to win.

“But I am hopeful that we have a few plausible avenues, that at the very least we can delay this, and buy us some time to work on a permanent solution. 

“Speaking as an American citizen, not even as a member of congress, what exactly does this achieve? This doesn’t make America great again. this does nothing to improve the United States. That you have a law-abiding citizen working in Philadelphia, working hard, paying taxes. Now suddenly he is going to be deported.

“It seems to me those are the kind of individuals we should be supporting, given the fact they are actually, literally by their own hard work, making America great. ”

A GoFundMe page was set up to help fund any costs incurred by the efforts to stay in the country. 

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