Pol Brennan, the former I.R.A. fighter detained in Texas on immigration charges, has lost another court battle.
The 55-year-old Brennan had been working as a carpenter, living openly in the San Francisco area for ten years, where he had also married an American woman named Joanna Volz.
Early this year, he was picked up at a Border Patrol checkpoint in the Valley for having an expired work permit. Border Patrol computers revealed his checkered past - several early '70s arrests in Belfast and a daring escape from Long Kesh Prison in 1983, after which he had come to America under an assumed name.
Although he had been tracked down by the Feds in 2000, it appeared that he could come in from the cold when the British Crown dropped its extradition proceedings against him. The U.S. government started issuing him yearly work permits, the last of which Brennan had allowed to lapse, though he claimed to have sent in his application on time.
None of that mattered in the court of Immigration judge William Peterson.
In earlier denying Brennan bail, other judges cited the Irishman's petty crimes in San Francisco - a gun charge for a weapon he no longer possessed, an assault charge for a dust-up with a contractor - Peterson reached all the way back to Brennan's 1970s IRA activities for his November 28 decision.
"The judge ruled that my wife Joanna was suffering hardship as a result of my detention. That would have had me out of here. But then he ruled on the terrorism issue and that went against me," Brennan told the Irish Echo.
Brennan has vowed to appeal. He has 30 days to do so. Should he lose, he likely faces deportation to the Republic of Ireland. Although Brennan's attorneys have said that Brennan could face reprisals if he returned to Northern Ireland, the last such act of vengeance took place in 1997, before the current, prevailing peace deal was struck between Protestants and Catholics.
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When Hair Balls spoke to him this summer in a visiting area of a South Texas immigration lock-up, it did seem as if Brennan, at least in some small part, would not have minded a trip home. He hadn't been home in 25 years, and his father was not in the best of health, he said.
On the other hand, Brennan's mother-in-law is also in poor health. She lives in the Valley. Volz faces either parting from her husband for long periods, expensive travel back and forth from Belfast to Brownsville, or the prospect of starting a new life overseas. Little wonder that she is said to be "distraught."
Neither Brennan nor Thar Saile, an organization that aids former IRA members in America, could be reached for comment.
- John Nova Lomax