An American man who entered Australia with his young family using false passports more than 30 years ago has agreed to be deported back to the US.
Paton Eidson, 72, had lived in the tiny far north Queensland town of Julatten since arriving with his wife and young daughter in 1986, and has spent the past three months in a detention centre before agreeing to return to the US to face charges of conspiracy to import marijuana.
The charges date back to 1991, and are for events which are alleged to have taken place in 1985, before her left to avoid prosecution.
Eidson, who says that he “has always tried to be a good Australian” received glowing commendations from members of the Julatten community.
He was described as an “integral part of the community in Julatten”, and “a close family friend that I love dearly”.
“The judge made the statement at my trial that he had never seen such a glowing list of character references, except once in a case in Townsville where the lady wrote them herself,” he said.
As he and his late wife were jailed for passport fraud in 2012, some supporters believe he’s being punished for the same crime twice.
Eidson told ABC News that he had agreed to a deportation order and would be leaving the country by the end of August, having to trust Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on an agreement to fast-track an application for permanent residency once he’s sorted out his issues.
Local MPs Warren Entsch and Bob Katter have been supporting Eidson since his arrest, and helped to organise the bargain for his returning to the US.
“I undertake to grant Mr Eidson a permanent visa, subject to Mr Eidson having been of good character in the intervening time,” read a letter from Dutton to Entsch, according to Eidson.
“On that basis is why I have accepted the terms and voluntarily agreed to go back [but] it comes down to trusting them.
“I’m tired of being in here … my life is just slipping away from me,” he said of his time in the detention centre.
As he has emphysema, which has seen him hospitalised twice since his arrest, Eidson will require two nurses to accompany him on the flight back, and will need to remain on a continuous oxygen supply.
Eidson will need to spend up to eight months in the US before being able to apply for permanent Australian residency.