As a popular Indiana restaurant owner faces deportation under President Trump’s immigration directives, his family becomes the latest in a series of Trump supporters to find campaign promises affecting their lives.
According to a report from Indiana Public Radio, Roberto Beristain’s family said he’s expected to be deported on Friday and has already been moved from the detention facility in Wisconsin where they had been visiting him. Beristain is the owner of Eddie’s Steak Shed in Granger, Ind., which he purchased from his sister-in-law earlier this month after eight years of working at the restaurant.
Beristain was detained during his routine voluntary check-in at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Indianapolis in February. He immigrated to the United States from Mexico illegally in 1998, deciding not to return after a visit to a family member in California. According to his immigration lawyer, Beristain was in possession of a legal Social Security number, work permit and driver’s license after registering with ICE in 2000.
“We were for Mr. Trump,” said Beristain’s wife, Helen, in an interview with WSBT-TV. “We were very happy he became the president. Whatever he says, he is right. But, like he said, the good people have a chance to become citizens of the United States.”
“I understand when you’re a criminal and you do bad things, you shouldn’t be in the country. But when you’re a good citizen and you support and you help and you pay taxes and you give jobs to people, you should be able to stay.”
Helen and her family immigrated to the United States from Greece over three decades ago. She has three children with Beristain.
The Beristains are the latest in a series of Trump voters being surprised that the president’s campaign promises — both vague and specific — are affecting them. Headlines like the one in last month’s Washington Post — “These Iowans voted for Trump. Many of them are already disappointed” — are not uncommon, and the Twitter account titled Trump Regrets has already earned over 250,000 followers by simply retweeting users who say they are suffering from Trump buyer’s remorse. In February, Public Radio International reported on a group of Syrians turned away at the Philadelphia airport under Trump’s original travel ban despite holding U.S. visas.
“It was a shock,” said Syrian-American Sarmad Assali, a Trump supporter. “If [Trump] had an issue with them entering the United States, we should have been told about it. It should have been discussed. We should be able to get some legal help in there. … The way they were returned in a two-hour period, it was just devastating.”
Last month the New York Times reported on an Illinois man named Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, an undocumented immigrant who managed a restaurant in the city of Frankfort. In a county that backed Trump with 70 percent of the vote, residents were upset that the president who promised to deport undocumented immigrants was rounding up undocumented immigrants in order to deport them.
“I knew he was Mexican, but he’s been here so long, he’s just one of us,” Debra Johnson, a resident, told the Times.
“I think people need to do things the right way, follow the rules and obey the laws, and I firmly believe in that,” said Lori Barron, another member of the Frankfort community. “But in the case of Carlos, I think he may have done more for the people here than this place has ever given him. I think it’s absolutely terrible that he could be taken away.”
Assali’s relatives eventually made it into the United States and Hernandez was released after a stay in ICE detention, but it appears that Beristain will be deported barring an eleventh hour intervention.
A Change.org petition created by Beristain’s stepson Phil Kolliopoulos lays out how the Indiana man ended up in the federal immigration system:
In 2000, Roberto took his wife and stepson to see Niagara Falls. Due to a wrong turn, they ended up at the border of The United States and Canada and Roberto was detained. A bail was paid in the amount of $1500. Roberto was given a voluntary deportation order but with Roberto expecting his first child soon, this was not an option for him to leave. He believed to be the supportive and loving husband and father he was made to be.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg wrote an essay earlier this week about why Beristain should be allowed to stay, stating that “it is worth remembering that it’s not just Americans in New York or Los Angeles who believe that we need a more humane and rational system.” Mishawaka, where the Beristains live, and Granger, where the restaurant is located, are just outside South Bend.
Kolliopoulos told the South Bend Tribune that if Beristain were to be deported, he would have family in Mexico City, including his parents and children. The family expects it would take about nine months for Beristain to acquire a green card and return to the United States legally.
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