The family of a northern Indiana restaurant owner who ICE detained during a routine check-in in February says he’s scheduled for deportation Friday.
Roberto Beristain is the owner of a popular restaurant in Granger called Eddie’s Steak Shed. His family says he came to the United States from Mexico City illegally in 1998. He later obtained documentation to work in the country and checked in with ICE each year.
It was during one of those check ins last month that ICE took Beristain into custody because of an incident in 2000. Roberto and his wife, Helen, were visiting Niagara Falls that year and accidentally crossed into Canada. Officers there detained Roberto when they realized he was in the U.S. illegally. Helen says a lawyer helped get Roberto out on bail, but he was told he had to voluntarily leave the country within a month.
Roberto decided not to self deport because Helen was pregnant at the time. An ICE spokesperson says when Roberto failed to deport himself, his voluntary order revered to a final order of removal, meaning ICE could detain him. They didn’t act on that order for more than a decade.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose city is in the same county as Granger, calls Roberto a “model resident” in an article he wrote for The Huffington Post.
Meeting with his family and friends at his business, Eddie’s Steak Shed, in the town of Granger, I am struck by many things: the tenderness of his wife’s love for him, the innocence of his four American children (especially the teenage daughters who are now being taunted at school over his case), the loyalty of his 20 employees, and the pride and affection of his gathered friends and acquaintances as they rally to show their support.
But most striking of all is how many of the people now sticking up for Roberto are politically conservative. These are small-town Indiana residents, veterans and grandparents who come to his restaurant after Mass or Rotary. They vigorously defend him as a man they are proud to call a friend. And the more I think about it, the more clearly it is consistent with their conservative values that they stand up for Roberto.
During an interview earlier this month, Helen said she voted for President Donald Trump because she supports his immigration policies. She said criminals should be deported, but she didn’t think her husband would face that fate.
“[Trump] did say the good people would not be deported, the good people would be checked,” Helen said.
Roberto’s family says he’s already been moved from the detention center they visited him at in Kenosha, Wisc. An ICE spokesperson says in a statement the agency cannot release information about upcoming removals for security reasons.