Irish Republican News · February 8, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Pol Brennan arrested, faces deportation threat

A former IRA Volunteer who escaped from Long Kesh prison more than 24 years ago and fought a long battle against extradition from the US has been arrested by immigration officials in Texas.

It remains unclear when Pol Brennan, who is originally from Belfast, will be released after he was detained by a border patrol for presenting an expired work permit. He had been living in San Francisco since 1983.

Brennan, in his fifties, and his American wife Joanna Volz were stopped near Brownsville on Monday as they travelled to visit friends.

Brennan was one of 38 republican prisoners to escape from the H-Blocks of Long Kesh on September 25 1983. Following his escape, he moved to the US, where he settled before being presented with an extradition order in 1993. He spent two prolonged stints in US jails, as Britain pursued his extradition in US federal court. He was last freed from US custody in 1998, and shortly afterwards, the British government abandoned the extradition bid.

“Pol is not undocumented, after his extradition case was dropped in October 2000, he was granted the right to remain in the US where he has been living and working ever since,” a Sinn Féin spokesman said.

“Pol and his family remain hopeful that this anomaly will be successfully resolved in the near future.”

A spokesman for the US border patrol said he had been arrested “pending deportation”.

Brennan described the problem over his papers as a “hiccup” -- but fears he could languish behind bars in the US for weeks or months before his case is reviewed.

“They asked me if I was a citizen. I said no, I was an Irish citizen. And I gave them my papers. And they said ‘This has expired’.

“I still have the [renewal] application pending,” said Brennan. “The hiccup wasn’t on our part. I did apply for it. The hiccup was on their part.”

He is currently being held in the Port Isabel Processing centre - a Department of Homeland Security administered facility outside Los Fresnos, Texas.

Brennan has travelled freely throughout the US in recent years. But after being queried in Brownsville, he and his wife Joanna Volz were taken inside a nearby immigration building, where US border patrol agents began searching a computer database for any name or fingerprint matches. Almost immediately, a now lapsed InterPol warrant pertaining to his Long Kesh escape, and information about his IRA past, appeared.

“At one point there were six guards all gathered around the computer screen,” Joanna Volz said from the couple’s Oakland, California home. “They were so excited. It was like they caught Osama Bin Laden.”

Brennan contacted his lawyer, who then faxed through reams of paperwork showing that the Ballymurphy native had been living and working openly in the US with the full-knowledge of US authorities. But to no avail. Brennan was taken into custody, and sent to the Port Isabel Processing center. Due to a backlog of cases, and a dearth of magistrates at the center, he said it could be weeks or even months before his case is reviewed.

Volz stressed that Brennan wasn’t arrested, and that no criminal charges are pending against him. “This is not news, really,” she insisted. “This is a small issue. It’s about a date on a work permit. He is not a fugitive.”

Brennan said that, prior to Sunday, he’d been “working steadily. I had a good job. My boss is real happy with me. I’ve been doing carpentry for a landscape company. I’m just a schmoe. Just a working stiff.”

He said a prolonged detention would be devastating to him. “If I stay here any more than a couple of months, I’ll lose my house, I’ll lose my job, I’ll lose my transport. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

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© 2008 Irish Republican News