May 7, 2003
Former Irish POW Seized by U.S. Immigration
Denver, CO - A former Irish prisoner of war, who had been detained in the infamous H-Blocks of Long Kesh prison for his republican activities and hopes of a united Ireland, is being held without bond in the Denver County Jail by the BICE (Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, formerly the INS).
Ciarán Ferry, an Irish citizen and former member of the IRA, was detained by INS agents as he attended a scheduled "green card" interview on January 30th, 2003 with his wife, Heaven Ferry. Heaven, an American citizen, is shocked by her husband's arrest. "How can they arrest him when he's married to a US citizen and has a pending application?"
Mr. Ferry is being held in solitary confinement and has been strip-searched routinely after visits from his wife and family, even though he has agreed to abide by prison rules. He has not seen daylight since February 26, 2003 and is allowed out of his cell to exercise for one hour every other day. Mr. Ferry has protested this ill treatment to the prison and also has asked his legal team to take action on his behalf. "The conditions of his detention are clearly disproportionate to the charges pending against him," claims Jeff Joseph, the immigration attorney representing Mr. Ferry (phone: 303-297-9171).
The official charge against Mr. Ferry involves overstaying his visa. This charge is unfounded because at the time of his application, Mr. Ferry was granted work authorization by the Department of Homeland Security and permitted to stay in the country. Mr. Ferry's legal team has responded to these invalid charges by filing a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in U.S. District Court for the State of Colorado, arguing that his detention and removal are unconstitutional. A status conference regarding Mr. Ferry's habeas petition is scheduled for May 23rd, 2003.
Mr. Ferry was imprisoned by British authorities in March of 1993 after two weapons were found in a car in which he was a passenger. He was held for two years before being tried without a jury under the Diplock court system, and sentenced to 22 years in Long Kesh, a special prison in the north of Ireland opened in 1976 solely to accommodate Republican and Loyalist prisoners sentenced for political offenses. He spent seven and a half years in the H-Blocks before being released in the summer of 2000 under the Good Friday Accord, brokered by Britain and Ireland with the active involvement of U.S. President Bill Clinton and U.S. Senator George Mitchell.
Ciarán and Heaven Ferry were married in Belfast in August of 2000, and lived there immediately following their wedding. In September of that year, police found Ciarán's personal details and home address on Loyalist death lists, and the couple was given a government grant to secure their flat against gun and bomb attack. Only a few months later, during a visit to Heaven's family in Colorado, the couple decided to stay in the United States to provide a safer life for the baby they had learned they were expecting. Mr. Ferry firmly believes that it would be dangerous to return to Ireland, and to do so would put the lives of his wife and daughter in jeopardy.
Mr. Ferry has requested an asylum hearing with the immigration judge based on a well-founded fear of returning to Ireland, and a hearing on this matter is scheduled for late August.
Jeff Joseph, counsel for Ciarán Ferry asks, "Can anyone ignore the situation of Mr. Ferry? If forced to return to Belfast, Mr. Ferry, his United States Citizen wife and 2-year-old United States Citizen daughter will be grave danger. In the spirit of the Good Friday Accords, we ask Attorney General John Ashcroft and President Bush to terminate deportation proceedings against Mr. Ferry and grant him his permanent residence in the United States."