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Irish father faces deportation after Trump immigration raids

Keith Byrne pictured with his wife Keren and children Ezra, Leona and Gabriel.
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A CO Cork man is facing deportation from the USA as the Trump administration cracks down on immigrants.

Keith Byrne, who has been married to a US citizen for 10 years and has three children, was detained in Philadelphia on Wednesday as nationwide raids by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) got under way.

The move is likely to increase fear and anxiety among Irish nationals living in the United States.

Around 2,000 migrants in nearly a dozen cities are expected to be targeted, according to weekend reports.

In April, Mr Trump promised to crack down on immigrants who remain in the US after overstaying their visas.

According to ICE's annual report, the number of Irish people deported last year under the Trump administration rose to 47, from 26 in 2016.

Mr Byrne, from Fermoy, has been living in the US for 12 years and runs a painting business.

The 37-year-old entered the United States on a Visa Waiver Programme in 2007 and overstayed.

His wife Keren told RTÉ News that after their marriage in 2009, they began the process of "adjusting his status" but that their applications have been turned down on numerous occasions.

The most recent refusal came earlier this year.

She said she always knew her husband's arrest "was a possibility" but described the latest developments as "very shocking".

Mrs Byrne said her husband is not a threat and not a criminal, emphasising that he runs a business, provides for his family and has "done nothing other than contribute to society".

Mr Byrne is currently being held at the Pike County Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania.

He was previously convicted in Ireland on a minor drugs possession charge, which Mrs Byrne claims is the reason his applications to remain in the country have been denied.

She said he has been honest about his conviction, and "that's why they could find him so easily, we weren't hiding him".

"I just keep asking him to stay hopeful and to just focus on his health in there and to just know that we are all fighting for him out here. My focus right now is getting Keith out of detainment," she added.

In a statement, a spokesman for ICE said Mr Byrne entered the United States in 2008 as a "non-immigrant" on a Visa Waiver Programme and "failed to depart the United States under the terms of his admission".

He added that Mr Byrne was arrested for "immigration violations" and was issued with a visa waiver removal order. "He is currently in ICE custody pending removal."

A GoFundMe account to keep Mr Byrne in the USA and raise awareness of his plight has raised almost $18,000 in one day.

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