An undocumented immigrant from Mexico whose wife was a supporter of Donald Trump’s immigration policies has been deported.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent Roberto Beristain, a 43-year-old Indiana business owner and father of three, to Mexico in a “middle-of-the-night deportation” on Tuesday, according to a statement from his lawyer.
“They suddenly told me it was time to go,” Beristain said in the statement. “They told me to get my stuff, they put me in the back of a van, and sped toward the border.” He added that he was unable to speak to his attorney until he was already in Mexico.
Beristain, who lives in Mishawaka, Indiana, had been transferred to various detention centers in the U.S. since February, when he was detained during a routine check-in with ICE officials. Beristain had visited a relative in the U.S. in 1998 and simply stayed in the country, where he met his wife, Helen. Immigration officials discovered he was undocumented in 2000, and ordered him to leave, but he opted to stay in the U.S. to be with his then-pregnant wife.
Since then — for 17 years — Beristain has routinely checked in with ICE officials and has been informally permitted to stay in the U.S., even obtaining a Social Security card, driver’s license and work permit. He is the owner of local restaurant Eddie’s Steak Shed, where he has worked for years. He purchased the business from his wife’s sister in January.
But in February — three months after the election of President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly vowed to crack down on undocumented immigrants — Beristain went to his check-in as usual, but was detained.
His wife, who voted for Trump and even voiced support for his stance on immigration, expressed shock that her husband was affected.
“[Trump] did say the good people would not be deported, the good people would be checked,” Helen Beristain told Indiana Public Media last month. She said she believed Trump would be targeting criminals.
But Roberto Beristain has no criminal record whatsoever, Chuck Roth, director of litigation at the National Immigrant Justice Center, told The Huffington Post in an email. Lawyers from NIJC are part of the legal team working to return Beristain to the country.
Beristain’s largely conservative community has also rallied to support their neighbor. The mayor of nearby South Bend, in a blog post for The Huffington Post, called Beristain a “model resident.”
ICE confirmed the deportation to HuffPost in a statement:
On Oct. 5, 2000, a federal immigration judge granted him “voluntary departure” for a period of 60 days. When he failed to depart the United States by that time as required, his voluntary departure order reverted to a final order of removal.
Beristain’s attorneys believe officials rushed Beristain out of the country in an attempt to evade pending rulings on his immigration status.
“This was an attempt to short-circuit the justice process by intentionally removing him before a judge could stop his removal,” said Adam Ansari in a statement. “We were in communication with the government regarding those motions – what they failed to mention was that they were in the process of throwing him out of the country.”
Roth told HuffPost that the motion to rescind Beristain’s removal is still pending, though a ruling on that could take “days or months.”
“If the judge grants our motion and undoes the removal order, it’s likely that we’ll be able to get Mr. Beristain allowed back into the U.S.,” Roth said, noting that “either side” would be able to appeal the judge’s decision.
If they cannot undo Beristain’s removal order, he would have to remain outside of the U.S. while waiting for permission to reapply for a legal visa.
“That process would generally take 1-2 years, during which time he’d be separated from his family,” Roth said.