Irish Echo

Ferry deported, but not before airport fiasco

By Ray O'Hanlon

In a final, Kafkaesque twist to his longrunning battle against deportation from the U.S., Belfast man Ciaran Ferry was prevented from leaving the country last week by law enforcement officials. And this even as he was in the process of being deported under armed federal escort.

Ferry's flight fiasco began after he reached a deal with federal prosecutors.

The former IRA man agreed to end his appeal against deportation if he was able to get a flight back to Ireland in time for Christmas.

Ferry's journey back east began smoothly enough. Escorted by U.S. marshals, he was placed on a plane out of Denver bound for Newark in New Jersey. The flight landed at Newark where Ferry was to be transferred to a Continental Airlines flight to Dublin. However, the wheels came off the flight plan at this point.

According to Ferry attorney Eamonn Dornan, airport security officials boarded the plan and ordered Ferry's removal.

"Ciaran was under armed escort by U.S. marshals, but the security officials said he couldn't fly because his name was on the no-fly list," Dornan said.

The presence of the federal officers did not assuage the officers, described by Dornan as being from the New York/New Jersey Port Authority. Ferry was taken from the plane and confined for the night at the Hudson County jail. Federal agents managed to sort out the situation the next day and Ferry finally flew to Ireland on Wednesday night, Dec. 23. He was freed upon arrival in Dublin and was able to spend Christmas with his family in Belfast.

Meanwhile, Ferry's wife, Heaven, who is a U.S. citizen, and the couple's American-born daughter, Fiona, spent Christmas in Colorado with family members. They are both expected to join Ferry in Ireland in the new year.

Last month, a Colorado judge denied Ferry's habeas corpus plea, which had been before the court for 19 months.

Ferry had argued that his detention violated due process and his right to equal protection. He said he was denied his rights because he was prevented from having a green-card hearing following his marriage to Heaven.

Ferry has been jailed since Jan. 30, 2003. He was detained when he turned up for the green-card interview with his wife.

Ferry was first held at the Federal Corrections Institution in Englewood, Colo. He was transferred at the end of February to the maximum-security wing of Denver County Jail. In September 2003 he was moved to the Jefferson County Jail in Denver. Hudson County turned out to be Ferry's fourth place of confinement in less than two years.

Ferry, through his lawyers, argued that he was treated in an arbitrary fashion by the Department of Homeland Security. He also disputed the government's position that he posed a threat to U.S. security. He was supported in this contention by 12 members of Congress, who wrote to the DHS on his behalf.

However, in his habeas corpus decision, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Nottingham ruled that while Ferry had been lawfully admitted to the U.S. under the visa-waiver program, he had, under the rules of the program, effectively waived his rights to legally fight deportation on any basis other than a plea for political asylum.

In his ruling, Nottingham noted that such a plea for asylum had been separately denied by U.S. immigration authorities. Nottingham, in denying habeas corpus, stated that Ferry was "subject to removal" from the U.S.

That decision was still in appeal before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals when Ferry decided to end a legal battle, which had the potential to go on for years.

When he appeared for his green-card interview, Ferry was questioned about a prison term he served in Northern Ireland for IRA-related activities in the early 1990s.

Ferry was arrested in Belfast in 1993 after two guns and ammunition were found in a car in which he was a passenger. He was sentenced to 22 years but was released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday agreement.

Ferry, when he first entered the U.S., did not reveal that he had been in prison. He did, however, admit to IRA membership on his subsequent green-card application.

This story appeared in the issue of December 29, 2004- January 4, 2005

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