The family of an Irish man, detained by immigration officials in the United States, has said he has until Friday to agree to leave the country or he could face jail time.

Keith Byrne was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials while on his way to work last Wednesday in Philadelphia.

ICE told RTÉ News they arrested him for immigration violations and issued him with a visa-waiver removal order.

The Cork native travelled to the US on a visa-waiver programme in 2007, however, he overstayed his visa.

During his time in the US, the father of three established his own painting business in Philadelphia.

He married American woman Keren Bryne but attempts over the past 12 years to obtain a Green Card have been turned down, due to a previous conviction in Ireland for minor drugs possession charges.

According to court documents in the US from 2015, Keith Byrne's application for a visa was denied because he was arrested twice in Ireland for marijuana possession for which, on both occasions, he paid a fine.

The 37-year-old is currently being held at Pike County Correctional facility in Pennsylvania.

Explaining the difficult position that Keith Byrne has found himself in, a Philadelphia State Representative has said that his deportation would be permanent.

Joe Hohenstein has worked with Keith and Keran as an immigration attorney.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, he said Mr Byrne would essentially be exiled, and his family would have to choose between living with him in Ireland, or living separately.

Mr Hohenstein said it has been a difficult time for the family, and that he is incredibly impressed with their strength and resilience.

He added that the children are confused and do not understand what is happening.

"Because of the craziness of US immigration law, the way that this would apply to him would make the deportation permanent," said Mr Hohenstein.

"He would essentially be exiled and his family would have a choice of whether to re-unify with him in Ireland or live separately," he added.

Mr Hohenstein said that the way US immigration law is structured means that if you have an arrest and you do not reveal it, it is almost worse than the subject of the arrest.

He said Mr Byrne first came to him several years ago, and wanted to make sure his previous conviction in Ireland for minor drugs possession charges was addressed.


Read more
Irish man facing deportation from US 'arrested without warning'
Family will be 'torn apart' if Irish man deported from US


Earlier, speaking to RTÉ News from Fermoy, Mr Byrne's brother, Greg, said Keith called him yesterday from the detention centre and that an ICE official presented him with a deal.

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.

Failing to sign the documentation, may 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.

However, 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.

They acknowledge that their brother has wronged but say 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 Byrne, 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," said Ms Manpau.

Greg Byrne also spoke about the effect the situation is having on his 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," Greg Byrne said.

It is understood that the Byrne family have spoken to Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney last night about the issue.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it is aware of the case and is in contact with Keith Byrne and his family. It said it is "providing all possible consular assistance as appropriate".

A leading Irish-American Congressman has also been working with the family and the Irish Embassy in Washington to attempt to rectify the situation.

Congressman Brendan Boyle told RTÉ News he cannot go into details for legal reasons but that he hopes they can "delay" the deportation and buy some time to work on a more "permanent solution".

The Democrat said he is not necessarily optimistic that "we are going to be able to win but I am hopeful that we have a few plausible avenues".

He also slammed the Trump administration for taking such a stance on immigration and targeting Mr Byrne whom he described as a law abiding citizen who works hard and pays taxes and he said the action does nothing to improve the United States.

"Speaking as an American citizen, not even a member of Congress, what exactly does this achieve? This doesn't Make America Great Again," Mr Boyle said.

For now, the Byrne family on both sides of the Atlantic wait for news.

Ms Byrne said it feels like they are grieving "but there is no one dead - it's the uncertainty".