Byrne family is finally under one roof

By Ray O'Hanlon

Mom was home, Mairead was out enjoying the summer. Dad was out in his truck. It was a happy, normal day in the life of a family. Though not just any family.

The Byrne family of Rockland County has been getting used to an old normality this past week.

Joe Byrne, after being cleared of charges in Ireland and allowed return to the U.S., lost little time in looking for work after securing his green card during a visit to the federal office building in Manhattan.

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That visit, to the office of Citizenship and Immigration Services, secured permanent residency for Byrne and a message of congratulation from his congressman, Eliot Engel.

"Now Joe can relax at home with his wife and daughter without fear of the immigration authorities coming for him," said Rep. Engel.

"Unlike four years ago when a score of federal marshals surrounded his home and took him away to be deported."

Engel, who worked with the family to persuade immigration authorities to reopen Byrne's case, was at Kennedy International Airport on Tuesday of last week with Byrne's wife, Eileen Grady Byrne and their seven-year-old daughter, Mairead,

"Joe Byrne was caught in a bureaucratic muddle not of his doing, and which made no sense. He came to the United States with a letter of good character from the Irish Garda, settled in Pearl River, married and had a child," Engel added.

Byrne was ensnared by decade-old charges in his native County Louth and was extradited to Ireland to face them.

Byrne's green card was subsequently revoked by immigration authorities just a couple of weeks before his daughter's First Communion day earlier this year. He had been summoned to a meeting at the federal offices in lower Manhattan because his green card's validity was coming up against the rule that you can't be out of the U.S. for more than a year.

But having been extradited, Byrne was unable to use his green card to enter the U.S. - even when it was still valid. Repeated letters of explanation from the family's attorney, Eamon Dornan, did not prevent the cancellation of the green card.

After a long delay the charges against Byrne were dropped but having lost his green card he found himself in a situation where he was free to leave Ireland, but not free to return to America.

"He missed these appointments through no fault of his own and through extenuating, and forgivable, circumstances. That is why I worked with immigration officials to bring him home to his family," said Engel.

I want to thank the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for its willingness to work for a decision that was fair and equitable to Joe, his family, and our country," Engel added.

Eileen Grady Byrne described a visit to the USCIS offices that had lifted an enormous burden from herself, her husband and their daughter.

"The immigration officer was absolutely lovely," she said.

She said that her husband had had his passport stamped with documentation indicating his legal presence in the U.S. and that he was told to expect his actual green card in a couple of weeks.

"We're doing well and we're sp glad Joe is back," she said.

"His truck is back on the road and he's already looking for work."