Category: Archive

Brennan in Texas prison lockdown

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Speaking to the Irish Echo by phone from the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Isabel Processing Center near Los Fresnos, Texas, Brennan said that he was only notified about 9 a.m. hearing on Wednesday February 6 at 9 p.m. the previous night.
The short notice meant that Jim Byrne, his San Francisco-based lawyer, had no chance of attending due to prior legal commitments in San Francisco. So Byrne advised Brennan to ask for a continuance, which was granted.
Brennan was eager to have a hearing so that he could apply for bail. He’ll now have to wait at least until March 11 for that opportunity.
Brennan was detained at a U.S. immigration checkpoint 100 miles from the Mexican border on January 27 when a border patrol guard noticed that his U.S.-issued work permit had expired. He and his American wife had been driving to visit friends in Texas.
A computer background check revealed that he was one of 38 IRA prisoners who escaped the maximum-security Maze prison in September 1983. U.S. authorities have known of his whereabouts ever since the FBI arrested him in 1993 in Berkeley, California living under a false name.
After spending about five years in U.S. jails as Britain sought his extradition in federal courts, he was finally released in 1998.
Two years after 1998’s Good Friday agreement, Britain dropped its extradition case against Brennan, and two other Maze fugitives living in San Francisco – Kevin Artt and Terry Kirby.
Brennan has since worked as a the San Francisco Bay area carpenter while waiting to see if the U.S. will deport him for using an alias to enter America in 1983. He also has a pending political asylum application.
The Belfast native insists that he filed for renewal of his work permit, which he must do every six months, back in 2006. He said he never heard back from authorities before his last permit expired. His current lock-up stems from the lapsed permit, and not his IRA past.
Initially held in a dormitory along with 70 other detainees, Brennan was moved to solitary confinement on February 1. He was first informed that the move was for his own safety and that other detainees – most of whom are from Mexico, and South and Central America – may try to attack him if they learned of about his IRA past.
However, on Monday he was given an official form stating that his solitary confinement stemmed from the fact that he is considered a danger to others, and to the security of the facility.
The depiction appears at odds with the fact that, while spending the last several years awaiting a final U.S. ruling on whether or not he’ll be deported, Brennan has worked and lived openly in the San Francisco Bay area without incident.
An amateur astronomer, he also volunteers at a local planetarium, where he conducts tours of the facility’s telescopes for visitors.
Brennan said that the form he was given Monday also assesses detainees’ general living conditions and had a question as to whether the detainee is exercising at least one hour daily, five days a week?
“And it says yes. That’s not true. I’m doing that myself in my cell, but they’re not getting me it,” said Brennan.
Whenever Brennan is allowed to leave his cell to shower, he’s in the constant company of two Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. He is permitted one 30 minute visit with his wife per week, to which he is brought in leg-irons and handcuffs – restrictions he said he hasn’t seen imposed on any other detainee.
Brennan told the Echo that he spends most of his days “pacing the cell,” as the facility has no library to draw reading material from, nor does he have a TV or radio in his cell.
He is allowed mail, and can have one book sent in to him at a time from outside the center. But it must be paperback, and sent directly from a publisher.

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