Keith Byrne and his wife, Keren, after his release from prison.

by Sue Ann Rybak

After his initial arrest, Oreland resident Keith Bryne, a 37-year-old Irish native, is home – at least for now. A court order by Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner compelled the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement to temporarily release him from Pike County Correctional Facility.

Bryne’s lawyer, Thomas M. Griffin, filed an emergency petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for Middle District of Pennsylvania. Griffin claimed that the government violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act, when it failed to properly investigate Byrne’s previous appeal for an adjustment of status. Because the government violated his client’s “due process,” Griffin said Byrne had the right to sue the agency.

In the order granting Byrne’s release, it stated: “Keith Byrne shall be temporarily released from custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a period of 30 days during which time he may seek injunctive relief and judicial review of his final denial of adjustment of status in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.”

The order also stated, however, that “nothing … precludes the United States and ICE from re-detaining Keith Byrne or reinstituting removal proceedings.”

Griffin said he will file a suit on behalf on his client in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

“It’s a very complicated case,” he said. “In some degrees, it could be cutting edge in terms of how the law reads, but we believe he has a winner of a case. We just need someone to properly adjudicate it and to consider the arguments.”

ICE officials released the following statement regarding the recent arrest and release of Keith Byrne: “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.”

Bryne, who was born in Fermoy, in the Irish Republic, was detained by ICE agents on his way to work on July 10. He recalled being followed by ICE, pulled over and “arrested, handcuffed and shackled” before being brought to prison.

“I was in shock,” he said. “Just total shock and fear. It was a big shock to me to be pounced on like that. I didn’t know if I was going to get deported that day or the following day or the following week. My children, my wife, my family, my customers – everybody was really shocked. I spent 15 days in prison. It was a horrible experience. And to be released for 30 days is the greatest news I ever heard.”

For the past nine years, Bryne and his wife, Keren, a U.S. citizen who grew up in Northwest Philadelphia, have been trying to change his status and get him a green card.

Bryne, who is one of 11 siblings, came to the U.S. in 2007 on a “Visa Waiver Program,” which allows visitors to travel to the United States easily but makes it difficult to change their status. He said he had no intention of staying in the United States until he met Keren and her young son.

They married on Oct. 10, 2009 in Philadelphia. In 2010, they hired a lawyer and began the citizenship progress. Keith was completely honest during the application process and disclosed that he had two minor incidents of marijuana possession in his early 20s for which he paid a fine in civil court. Despite several appeals, his application was denied.

In an earlier interview with the Local, Keren said her husband has been fully documented since he came here. The couple and their lawyer were in constant communication with immigration officials.

“So I expected a warning, a warrant or something, not to be treated like a criminal,” he said. I am sorry I just don’t think I fit that category. My wife and family came to visit me [in the detention center] the following week; We had to talk through glass. I couldn’t touch my children. I was in prison.”

Byrne said it has been “a very upsetting experience” for his children. He said They don’t understand why their father was taken away.

Before all of this, he added, he and his family were living a good life. For now, he is just happy to be reunited with his family and wants things to get back to normal. He is tired of the media frenzy.

“We are grateful,” he said. “We are happy. This is my home. Ireland has not been my home for 12 years. If I am deported, it’s going to cause nothing but problems for everybody. For my wife, who studied hard to become a nurse and now works at Jefferson Hospital. I have a stepson who is 13 and is very connected to his biological father. My wife’s mother lives with us. I have a very successful painting business that I have had for six years. My home is here. I don’t need assistance from the government. I am not a burden to anybody. It will cause more damage for them to send me away than to let me stay here with my family.”

When the Local asked what people can do to help him, he replied, “Just keep talking, keep sharing and keep positive. That’s all I could ask of anybody.”

When asked if there was anything else he wanted to add, Keith said he wanted to thank everyone who helped and supported him during this time, especially his wife and his family.