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Irishman Keith Byrne speaks of 'shock' and 'heartbreak' over US immigration arrest

Byrne was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on 10 July.

Keith Byrne with his wife Keran and their three children
Keith Byrne with his wife Keran and their three children
Image: GoFundMe

IRISHMAN KEITH BYRNE – who has lived in the US for over ten years but is now facing deportation – has spoken of his “shock” and “heartbreak” following his arrest. 

Byrne was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on 10 July. 

The Fermoy-native and father-of-three runs a painting and decorating business in Pennsylvania, and was pulled over by officers on his way to work despite being a legal citizen.

He has attempted to secure his status in the US through appropriate legal routes since he has been living there, but a charge for possession of marijuana when he still lived in Ireland has meant he has failed to do so. 

Although his family always knew it was possible that his application could be denied to the point that he would have to go back to Ireland, his wife Keran told RTÉ earlier this month that it never occurred to her family that ICE would deport him.

A member of Byrne’s legal team, Stephen Antwine, told RTÉ Radio One’s Drivetime on Friday that they had received an order granting his release for 30 days. 

Speaking to RTÉ News, Byrne said he was “very scared” when ICE officers pulled him over in his car. 

“I was very scared at the beginning of course. I guess more than anything else I was just heartbroken. My babies, my wife, my business, my customers, my life. Everything I had worked so hard for was just gone, without warning. I was scared,” Byrne said, speaking of his arrest. 

Byrne described his experience of being detained in Pike County Jail in Pennsylvania as “awful”. 

“They put me in jail with who knows who. It was awful,” Byrne said. 

As noted above, Byrne has attempted to secure his status in the US through appropriate legal routes since he has been living there, but a charge for possession of marijuana when he still lived in Ireland has meant he has failed to do so. 

It’s kind of embarrassing. It’s a 14-year-old fine that I paid in court. I don’t know what kind of message people are giving out by sending me home over that. I’ve made a good life over here so, I’ve paid my penalty.

Byrne said he has “never hid” in the US. 

“I came here and I got lucky. I’ve lived the ‘American dream’. Hard work made good luck, so may it continue,” he said. 

Byrne said he is yet to speak to his lawyer, but that he has “full confidence in him” going forward. 

“I’ll need to have confidence in someone so I’m excited to speak to him,” Byrne said. 

A spokesperson for ICE told TheJournal.ie earlier this week: “In 2007, Keith Byrne, 37, a citizen of Ireland, entered the United States as a nonimmigrant under the Visa Waiver Program and failed to depart the United States under the terms of his admission. 

“ICE arrested him July 10 for immigration violations and issued him a visa waiver removal order. In accordance with the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania temporary injunction, ICE will release Mr. Byrne from custody pending immigration proceedings.”

ICE has been contacted by TheJournal.ie for an updated statement. 

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