Ex-IRA fugitive detained by Homeland Security —despite asylum plea

Former IRA fugitive Pól Brennan will remain in the Homeland Security Department’s Port Isabel Processing Center near Los Fresnos, TX, until at least March 11, after he was forced to ask a US immigration judge to postpone a hastily scheduled hearing so that his San Francisco-based lawyer could fly down to represent him. Brennan said he was only notified about the hearing scheduled for 9 AM Feb. 6 the previous night. Upon requesting the postponement, he was told he would have to wait over a month for another opportunity to request release on bail. (Irish Echo, Feb. 13)

Brennan was detained at the Sarito immigration checkpoint near Brownsville Jan. 27 while driving with his wife Joanna Volz from their San Francisco Bay Area home to visit friends in Texas. The couple had made the trip and gone through the checkpoint many times without incident. The UK had abandoned its extradition case against Brennan and two other IRA fugitives discovered in the Bay Area—Kevin Artt and Terry Kirby—back in 2000. But when a computer check on Brennan turned up a lapsed Interpol warrant concerning his 1983 escape from Belfast’s notorious Prison Maze (formerly Long Kesh), Border Patrol agents decided to detain him. Brennan contacted his lawyer in San Francisco, Jim Byrne, who promptly faxed to Texas all relevant paperwork proving that Brennan has been living in the US openly, while waiting to find out if he’d be deported for entering under a false name in ’83. Brennan also has a claim for political asylum pending, asserting that he could be targeted by loyalist paramilitaries if returned to Northern Ireland. (Irish Echo, Feb. 6)

A 1996 update on Brennan’s case from the Irish Republican Lark Spirit website notes that Brennan was convicted of possessing explosives and sentenced to 16 years in the Long Kesh H-Block section in 1976. He escaped along with 37 others in 1983. He made his way to the San Francisco area, where he worked in the construction trade under the name Pol Morgan, married US citizen Joanna Volz, and had a daughter named Molly. The family lived peacefully until Brennan was arrested in January 1993 on charges of passport violations and possession of a firearm. His asylum claim has been pending since shortly thereafter.

See our last posts on the immigration crackdown and the Irish struggle.