Irish Echo Online - News

No-fly order snagged Ferry deportation
By Ray O'Hanlon

As he thought he was about to be deported to Ireland, a stunned and bemused Ciaran Ferry looked on as an expletive-laden row erupted between law enforcement officers charged with removing him from the country.

Speaking from Belfast, Ferry, who has vowed to keep up his legal fight to live in the U.S., described a surreal situation in which one arm of federal law enforcement prevented the other from enforcing his federally mandated deportation.

"It spooked all the passengers on the flight to Dublin," Ferry said in a phone interview.

Ferry was settling into the Continental Airlines flight out of Newark Airport on the evening of Dec. 21. He was being escorted across the Atlantic by three officers from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On the surface, at least, Ferry appeared to be just another passenger. He was not in handcuffs or any other form of restraint.

"We were getting ready to take off when the captain came on saying there was a slight problem and that we had to return to the gate," Ferry said. "When we got to the gate, six Port Authority cops got on board and came down the plane to us." Ferry said that the Port Authority officers told him that he would have to leave the plane because his name was on the federal government's no-fly list.

The list is compiled by a number of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies and is provided to airlines by the Transportation Security Administration, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security. The list, which has existed for about 15 years, was broadly expanded in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and is intended to prevent attacks against flights into and out of the U.S.

The controversial list made headlines last September when it resulted in the detention and deportation of Yusuf Islam, formerly the singer Cat Stevens, after he arrived in the U.S. on a flight from London.

Earlier in the year, the list raised many eyebrows following the airport questioning, on no fewer than five occasions, of Sen. Edward Kennedy. Kennedy has been stopped because the no-fly list carried the name "T. Kennedy." It took three weeks of effort by Kennedy and his staff to have the senator's name removed from the list.

Given his record of IRA membership, the inclusion of Ciaran Ferry on the list was rather less surprising than the inclusion of the senior senator from Massachusetts. But Ferry was perplexed as to why he would be pulled from a plane while under federal escort.

"It was bureaucratic nonsense," he said.

Ferry said that once had had walked off the plane, a row broke out between the various law enforcement officers.

Ferry said he stood by as the deportation officers, Port Authority cops, officers from the TSA and Continental Airlines security personnel debated what to do with him.

"There was a lot of what the f ... is going on here," Ferry said.

It was eventually decided that Ferry should not be allowed fly. He was taken to Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny, N.J., for the night.

Ferry said his federal escort had been clearly frustrated by the snafu.

"They just wanted to complete their task," he said.

Ferry said that he had tried to keep things in perspective during the incident.

"I had this wry grin on my face and I was thinking that when you want to leave the country, they won't let you leave," he said.

A spokesman for the Port Authority police said that the authority officers were only present to assist the TSA. The mix-up over Ferry's flight status, he said, had been a federal one.

A spokeswoman for the TSA said that the no-fly list was provided to all airlines and that it was an airline's responsibility to check it before issuing a boarding pass.

The problem over Ferry's flying status was ultimately cleared up and Ferry was flown to Dublin on Wednesday, Dec. 22.

"I had to hand over my temporary travel document to a Garda officer when we got to Dublin," he said. "He just said, 'welcome home,' and that I was free to go."

Ferry's departure from the U.S. followed his agreeing to give up his habeas corpus bid which would have allowed him to return to his wife Heaven and daughter Fiona in Colorado.

Ferry said that he was now having to deal with mixed emotions. He was glad to be out of prison, but sad that he was thousands of miles from his wife and child.

"We had our wee plan, so we were fairly psychologically prepared for the separation," he said. "Our major concern was that Fiona would have a nice Christmas."

Last month, a Colorado judge denied Ferry's habeas corpus plea, which had been before the court for 19 months. He had been jailed since Jan. 30, 2003 after being detained when he turned up for the green-card interview with his wife.

Though the habeas corpus issue is now moot, Ferry still has an appeal against deportation pending before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. He said he was intent on continuing his legal fight to live in the U.S. with his family.

"Much depends on finances, but I'm prepared to take this to the highest court in the land," he said. "It's important that we make a stand so that others won't have to take the same road. Maybe we can pull something out of the fire yet."

This story appeared in the issue of January 5-11, 2005

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