20 years ago, Roberto Beristain illegally entered the United States from Mexico and settled in Granger, Indiana.
There, he met his wife Helen and the two have raised three children — all while running a local restaurant. In 2000, during a trip to Niagara Falls, the Beristains inadvertently crossed the border into Canada. Because of their mishap, federal authorities were alerted to the fact that he was in the United States illegally.
Roberto was given a voluntary self-deportation order telling him to leave the U.S. within 60 days. Instead, he decided to stay with his pregnant wife, who was also suffering from high blood pressure at the time.
After that notice, he received a final order demanding he leave the country. He ignored that also.
Since then, he’s been checking in regularly with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents every year, maintaining a clear criminal record and even getting a driver’s license, work permit and social security card with permission from ICE agents.
During the 2016 election, Helen decided to vote for Donald Trump because of his ‘harsh stance on illegal immigration.’
“We don’t want to have cartels here, you don’t want to have drugs in your high schools, you don’t want killers next to you,” Helen said. “You want to feel safe when you leave your house. I truly believe that. And, this is why I voted for Mr. Trump.”
Imagine her surprise when she got the call from ICE that her husband was now being detained & set to be deported after his regular check-in with agents.
“They came outside, knocked on the window,” Helen Beristain told Indiana Public Media earlier this month. “They said, ‘Are you Roberto’s wife?’ And, I said ‘Yes.’ And, they said, ‘Well, your husband is being detained because of a deportation [order] 16 and a half years ago.’ And, I said, ‘That’s a joke.’ And, they said, ‘No, it’s true.’”
Zamarripa said Beristain remains in ICE custody pending his removal to Mexico. “For operational security reasons, ICE does not release information regarding upcoming removals,” she said.
But Adam Ansari, a Chicago lawyer representing the family, said Beristain was set to leave the country on Friday.
“Right now, he’s set to be deported tomorrow,” Ansari said.
Helen Beristain told Indiana Public Media she voted for President Trump believing that only “killers” and cartel members would be deported.
“We don’t want to have cartels here, you don’t want to have drugs in your high schools, you don’t want killers next to you,” she said. “You want to feel safe when you leave your house. I truly believe that. And, this is why I voted for Mr. Trump.”
Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, wrote in the Huffington Post that “the favorite themes of conservatism” were at stake in Beristain’s case.
“Hard work, small business ownership, suspicion of overbearing government, and support for family. Each one of those themes is at stake here—and each is insulted by the prospect of a person like Roberto being ripped away from his business, friends, wife, and children, by a federal agency,” he wrote.
Under Obama-era directives, ICE focused mainly on criminals and those who posed a threat to public safety. But since Trump signed an executive order in January on immigration, ICE agents have been detaining hundreds of undocumented immigrants, including those not charged with any crimes.
“This executive order is ripping families apart,” said Ansari, the attorney.
Ansari said that if Beristain is deported tomorrow, the family will petition for him to get on a waiver program so he can return to the US legally. A 2007 green card application, based on his marriage to Helen (a US citizen), is still pending, Ansari added.
“They’re distraught,” he said of the family, adding that they did not wish to speak to media on Thursday. “They have lost a husband, a father, a main breadwinner.”
Helen Beristain indicated to Indiana Public Media that she felt misled by the president’s plans.
“[Trump] did say the good people would not be deported, the good people would be checked,” Helen Beristain said.