Keith Byrne: US immigration treated me like a proper criminal


Jack Quann
Jack Quann

08.58 29 Jul 2019


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An Irishman waiting to hear if he faces deportation from the US says immigration officials treated him "like a proper criminal".

Keith Byrne, who is originally from Cork, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (ICE) earlier this month.

He spent 15 days at the Pike County Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania.

The 37-year-old overstayed his work visa in 2007, and was refused status as a naturalised US citizen over two marijuana possession charges dating from his early 20s while in Ireland.

He says he paid a €100 fine in relation to those charges.

He was released from custody at the weekend, but has a legal battle ahead.

He told Newstalk Breakfast officials pulled over his car when he was on his way to work.

"I didn't realise it was ICE until they came to my window and I was confused.

"I asked them what were they doing, and to call my lawyer that you've got the wrong man.

"But they just arrested me, put handcuffs on my feet, my hands - treated me like a proper criminal.

"They took me to prison, I was in prison that night, just in shock - I was heartbroken, I didn't understand what was going on".

"What happens in the next 30 days, I won't know until I speak to [his lawyer] early this week - so I'm sure they have a plan".

Referring to his wife Karen, he says: "We got married in 2009, we hired a lawyer in 2010 and ever since 2010 we've been going to court - all different courts: federal courts, circuit court...we've been doing so much to make it right.

"There are too many people out there thinking I overstayed my visa for 12 years which is not true.

"It was a short time", he says, but admits he overstayed his visa initially.

"Many people have got a green card and they've overstayed for many years".

On his former marijuana possession charges, he says: "I feel like what was the point of me moving on in my life and working so hard and building such a beautiful family and home if you're going come back with me with that charge again.

"What's the point? What's your message?

"I did move on, I did change, I did do better for myself and my family - so why should that pull me back?".

Keith Byrne: US immigration treated me like a proper criminal

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