Irish Echo

Ferry gives up 2-year struggle to stay in U.S.

Ciarán Ferry

By Ray O'Hanlon

Former IRA man Ciaran Ferry could be flying home to Ireland for Christmas. He will leave behind him not just a Colorado jail cell but quite possibly his wife and child. Not to mention his American dream. Ferry's wife, Heaven, and daughter, Fiona, are expected to soon join him in Ireland. Whether they can get a flight before Christmas, however, was in some doubt this week.

Either way, a reunion between Ferry and his family will be bittersweet because he had hoped to raise his 3-year-old daughter on her native American soil.

The imminent end of Ferry's almost two-year battle to avoid deportation became starkly clear in recent days as he faced another Christmas in jail.

Attorney Eamonn Dornan, one of Ferry's team of attorneys, said that Ferry had agreed to withdraw a motion seeking a stay on deportation if he could secure a guarantee that he would be able to return to Ireland by Christmas.

A release from custody in order so spend Christmas with his wife and child in their Colorado home was not going to happen. And even if an unlikely court decision had directed such a release, Dornan said he had it would have been immediately stymied by a government appeal.

"Because the Department of Homeland Security has exhibited such belligerence in this case, there was little reason to expect that it would have immediately complied with such an order," Dornan said.

All the DHS would have had to do was file a form to prevent any early release on bond, Dornan said.

"There was no give whatsoever in this case by the Department of Homeland Security," he added.

Dornan said that he was hoping that the department would, however, abide by an agreement that would ensure a quick flight to Ireland in return for Ferry ending all avenues of appeal.

The withdrawal of "any and all" of Ferry's requests for stay of removal from the U.S. was submitted "sadly but respectfully" in a motion to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals last week by Dornan and Ferry's attorneys in Colorado, Jeff Joseph and Thomas Burke.

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

Ferry's continued presence on U.S. soil looked extremely doubtful from the moment the decision was signed.

The court ruling was handed down Nov. 8. Ferry had 30 days from that date to appeal.

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 his Arkansas-born wife, 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. He has been held there since.

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, Judge 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 when Ferry decided to end his legal battle.

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 green-card application.

This story appeared in the issue of December 22-28, 2004

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