On Wednesday, a Trump supporter felt the full brunt of the current president’s strict stance against immigrants when her husband was deported to Mexico.
Helen Beristain openly acknowledges voting for Donald Trump even though she is married to an undocumented immigrant. As CNN notes, back in November, she claimed she thought Trump would only deport people with criminal records—you know, the “bad hombres”—and would leave families together.
“I don’t think ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is out there to detain anyone and break families, no,” Beristain told WSBT in March, shortly after her husband, Roberto Beristain, was detained by U.S. immigration agents
She learned how wrong she would be, with her husband now having been removed from the country and to the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez.
“He hadn’t committed any crimes. He didn’t even have a parking ticket,” family attorney Adam Ansari said. “From everyone’s accounts, he is probably one of the most lovable guys you will ever meet. He is a loving husband and father. And he put a lot of work into his restaurant.”
According to BuzzFeed, Roberto Beristain, 43, who owns a restaurant in Indiana, had been in custody since he was detained in February during a routine check-in with ICE officers. He spent the next two months between detention centers across six states before being taken alone to Ciudad Juarez Tuesday night.
“They suddenly told me it was time to go,” Beristain said. “They told me to get my stuff, they put me in the back of a van, and sped toward the border. They took me to another facility while in transport to sign paperwork. I asked to speak with my attorney, but was told there wasn’t time for that. At around 10 pm, I was dropped off at the Mexico-U.S. border and walked into Mexico.”
Ansari said he believes that Beristain’s sudden and quick removal was due to an attempt to “short-circuit the judicial system.”
“It all happened very, very quickly, and it’s like immigration services just wanted to get him out of the country so they didn’t have the potential challenge,” Ansari said
Beristain came to the U.S. in 1998 through a Mexican border crossing. He met his wife, Helen Beristain, in a restaurant in Fort Wayne, Ind. They were married and eventually grew as a family from raising a child from a previous marriage, to sharing three children together, all of whom are U.S. citizens.
However, Beristain was briefly detained at the U.S.-Canadian border in 2000 after the couple made a wrong turn driving at Niagara Falls, BuzzFeed notes. After posting bail, Beristain was released on a voluntary self-deportation order, which gave him about two months to leave the country. He opted to stay in the U.S. to remain with his then-pregnant wife.
“When immigration officials picked him up at that time, they classified him incorrectly,” Ansari insisted, according to CNN. “If they had classified him correctly, the voluntary departure order wouldn’t have been an option, and he could have followed other avenues.”
Several years passed with ICE agents taking no action against Beristain, despite the order of removal against him. He bought a local restaurant in Granger, Ind., the Steak Shed, and annually checked in with officials. He was able to obtain a driver’s license, Social Security card and a work permit, his family said.
“He has employment authorization,” Ansari said. “For five years, he had been voluntarily showing up at the ICE office in Florida, where his immigration attorney lives. This year when he flew down to Florida, he was sent back to Indiana. He drove to the ICE office in Indianapolis, and that is where he was detained.”
From there, Beristain was bounced around between detention facilities in Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas, making it harder for his attorneys to file legal motions in one jurisdiction.
By Wednesday, when his legal team was expecting a ruling, they got the news that Beristain had been deported.
Today, Helen Beristain feels betrayed, Ansari said.
But the legal team’s work is far from done, planning to file new court motions to ask a federal judge to return Beristain to his family.
“It is fundamentally unfair to do this to a person whether you have your papers or not,” Ansari said, referring to the lack of due process. “He has been here for 20 years. He has a family and a business. You are not going to give him an opportunity for relief? He has contributed so much to his community. As United States citizens, we can give him that much.”