The United State’s crackdown on immigration is again under scrutiny following the arrest of Irish man Keith Byrne by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
His arrest comes despite Mr Byrne working with government officials over the past 10 years to legally attain his US citizenship, which has proven more difficult due to a previous charge for the possession of marijuana in his early twenties while still a resident of Ireland.
Mr Byrne, who owns a painting and decorating business in Pennsylvania, was detained by the ICE suddenly and without warning on his way to work earlier this week.
The 37-year-old Fermoy native is married to US citizen Keren Byrne and the couple have three children together.
As told by Keren to The Irish Times, the children are said to be “sad and confused” about the removal of their father, who is currently being detained awaiting deportation.
The family and friends of Mr Byrne are exploring all possible routes to keep the Irishman from being deported, including setting up a GoFundMe page to aid the legal fight to keep him in the country.
The fund, posted under the title “The Citizenship of Keith Byrne” opens with a heart-wrenching line:
“If you are a father, mother or if there is any child on this Earth you care deeply about, this story pertains to you.”
The post goes on to describe Keith Byrne as “a dedicated member of society, a tax paying entrepreneur, a loving father and stepfather of three children, a man of the household who cares deeply for his wife and a patriot of the United States of America. Simply enough: we got this one wrong.”
In just two days of the GoFundMe going live, friends, family and sympathisers have raised a whopping $19,680 (£16,660) of the $50,000 (£39,7900) target.
A glance at the donations reveals many Irish surnames—as a nation whose culture is rooted in immigration, Mr Byrne’s plight has gained great sympathy from both the Irish and those with Irish ancestry.
Mr Byrne’s family, currently based in Pennsylvania, PA, have said they will pack up their lives in America and attempt to join him in Ireland if their legal fight is unsuccessful. He is currently being detained in Pike County Correctional Facility.
Under President Trump’s government, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is expected to arrest almost 1 million people for immigration offences in 2019.