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Family Speaks Out After Indiana Restaurant Owner Detained By ICE

ICE officers detained a Granger restaurant owner during a routine check-in last month.

Roberto

Photo: Tyler Lake

Roberto Beristain owns a popular Granger, Ind. restaurant.

The family of a northern Indiana man is speaking out after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detained him during a routine check-in last month.

Roberto Beristain owns a popular restaurant in St. Joseph County, has a driver’s license and pays taxes. He’s in custody because of an incident that happened more than 15 years ago.

Hug

Photo: Tyler Lake

An Eddie's Steak Shed employee hugs Helen Beristain at the restaurant.

Trip To Niagra Falls In 2000 Causes Trouble For Indiana Man

Eddie’s Steak Shed is well-known in Northern Indiana. The small red building sits along a busy stretch of road in Granger. And people come here just as much for the friendly staff as they do for the steak.

“We feel like a big family,” says Paula Barnette, who’s worked at Eddie’s for several years.

She says this place hasn’t been the same over the past month. The patriarch of the business – and the family – is gone.

“How could this be?” Barnette says. “This man pays our checks, pays his taxes.” 

“How could this be? This man pays our checks, pays his taxes.”

—Paula Barnette, Eddie's Steak Shed Employee

Roberto Beristain’s family says he came to the United States illegally from Mexico City in 1998 but had since gotten documentation to work here. He owns Eddie’s Steak Shack and traveled to Indianapolis with his wife Helen last month for his yearly check-in with immigration officials.

“They came outside, knocked on the window,” Helen says. “They said, ‘Are you Roberto’s wife?’ And, I said ‘Yes.’ And, they said, ‘Well, your husband is being detained because of a deportation 16 and a half years ago.’ And, I said, ‘That’s a joke.’ And, they said, ‘No, it’s true.’”

Helen says the incident the officers were referring to stems back to 2000. She and Roberto decided to take a trip to Niagara Falls but took the wrong route and found themselves crossing the border to Canada. Officers there detained Roberto when they discovered he was in the country illegally.

“We got a lawyer and got him on a bail for $1,500,” Helen says. “And they told him, ‘You have to leave voluntarily in a month.’”

But Helen says she was pregnant at the time and suffering from high blood pressure, so Roberto decided to stay.

Roberto

Photo: Tyler Lake

Roberto's family says he came to the U.S. illegally in 1998 but has since obtained a work permit, driver's license and social security card.

Beristain Detained As Federal Government Changes Deportation Priorities

ICE Public Affairs Officer Gail Montenegro says in a statement, “when he failed to depart the United States by that time as required, his voluntary order reverted to a final order of removal.”

That meant ICE could deport him, but Helen says they allowed him to stay as long as he kept working and didn’t get into trouble.

But the Trump administration is changing the way the government prioritizes people for deportation, expanding its efforts beyond just those who face criminal charges.

Helen says she agrees with the President’s stance on the issue.

“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 says. “You want to feel safe when you leave your house. I truly believe that. And, this is why I voted for Mr. Trump.”

But Helen doesn’t understand why her husband is among those being detained. She says he’s an upstanding business owner who’s in the process of applying for a green card – not a criminal.

Now his stepson Phil Kolliopoulos is trying to help keep the family business running, not knowing what the future holds.

“The worst thing … would be deportation,” Kolliopoulos says. “And, it’s hard to think about that. And, it’s hard too because he has a grandson and he can’t see him grow up.”

“He’s trying to hold up. He said, ‘I haven’t done anything wrong, I haven’t committed a crime.’”

—Helen Beristain, Roberto's wife

Roberto’s lawyer filed an application to keep him in the U.S. for at least the next 12 months. He’s also trying to reopen his case for citizenship. But it’s unclear when a decision will be made and the process is often lengthy.

For now, all his family can do is wait and hope immigration officials make a decision in Roberto’s favor. Helen visits him once a week at a detention facility in Wisconsin and says he wants nothing more than to come home.

“He’s trying to hold up,” Helen says. “He said, ‘I haven’t done anything wrong, I haven’t committed a crime. The only crime I’ve done is wanting to be in the United States.’”

If Roberto is deported, he could be barred from entering the United States for up to a decade.

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  • Jesse Willette

    “He’s in the process of getting his green card.” And why didn’t he 17 years ago after he got caught? Or even before he got caught when he first entered illegaly? He is only now trying because he got caught and facing final deportation.

    “He’s trying to hold up,” Helen says. “He said, ‘I haven’t done anything wrong, I haven’t committed a crime. The only crime I’ve done is wanting to be in the United States.’”

    Illegal entry…. how did he get a SSN to work if he was illegal? Whose SSN is he using? He also entered the US or attempted a second time illegaly when he went to Canada, and he failed to abide by a judges order, those are all illegal.
    He had a chance to become legal, and now he’s crying crocodile tears because he got caught and only now that he is facing deportation for real is he even trying to do it the right way! Yeah, lots of criminals are sorry after they get caught.

  • Harry T. Bagger

    Why are Trump voters so damn dumb??

  • otto42

    Leopard Eating Faces Party, …….

  • Tim Murphy

    Why couldn’t he become a US citizen when he married a US citizen?

  • Ed Wade

    Because he entered the country illegally. They don’t forgive you for committing a crime just because you get married.
    “The only crime I’ve done is wanting to be in the United States.”
    No, the crime you’ve done is you entered illegally. I’m sorry, but if I commit a crime, the fact I have a drivers license and a job and pay my taxes do not excuse the crime.

  • Caryn O’Connor

    One misconception is that he would be filing taxes using a SSN. Most file taxes using a Tax ID Number or TIN. He is an employer and would be paying his taxes using a valid TIN.

  • Lindsay

    Considering the circumstances maybe we should reconsider what is considered a crime…..

  • Jennifer

    Think hard about what constitutes a crime, and what you really want prosecuted.

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