Trump’s lies aren’t just a problem for Washington insiders and the media. They’re having a tragic effect on actual lives – even the lives of people who supported him.
One such supporter is Helen Beristain. She believed Trump when he said he was only interested in deporting hard criminals. This week, she learned that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) is scheduled to deport her husband, Roberto Beristain – owner of a popular restaurant in a conservative community in Northern Indiana – to Mexico tomorrow.
We know what you’re thinking. Helen’s husband must be one of Trump’s ‘bad hombres,’ a drug dealer, perhaps, or maybe a rapist, or a gang leader. Not exactly.
His crime that ran him afoul of Trump’s deportation force? Accidentally entering Canada 17 years ago.
Roberto Beristain came to the the United States from Mexico City, Mexico in 1998. The undocumented immigrant found steady work as a cook, started a family, and eventually bought the popular Eddie’s Steak Shed in Granger, Indiana. I.C.E. detained him just weeks after ownership of the eatery was transferred over to him.
Back in 2000, Helen and Roberto were on vacation in Niagara Falls, New York, when their directions got mixed up and they found themselves driving into Canada. Because Roberto was undocumented, he was detained on their way back into the U.S. and jailed. He was released several weeks later under the condition that he self deport.
Helen was pregnant at the time, and Roberto was not going to leave her side. He decided to defy the order and stay with his wife, and he would work over time to earn legal status. 17 years and 4 children later, Roberto grew to become what the Mayor of nearby South Bend, Indiana, called a “Model Citizen” in an open letter published in the Huffington Post.
Roberto filed for and received all the permits necessary to work in this country. As a condition of this tenuous legal status, he had to maintain an impeccable record with law enforcement and check-in dutifully with I.C.E. each year.
Those “check-ins” were pretty routine during the Bush and Obama administrations, with both presidents de-prioritizing hardworking immigrants of all ethnicities, especially those with families and clean criminal records.
Helen had every reason to think that her husband would continue to enjoy this low priority status under the Trump administration. She was so certain, in fact, that she actually voted for the bombastic billionaire despite his harsh rhetoric against undocumented immigrants.
In an interview in early March, Helen said she liked the Trump campaign’s promises on immigration, believing herself, too, that criminals should be kicked out. She just never expected her husband would be swept-up in the zealotry of Trump’s new policies.
“[Trump] did say the good people would not be deported, the good people would be checked,” she said.
But no such luck. In February, Roberto entered the I.C.E. offices for his regularly scheduled check-in, but never came out. He was detained for violating the deportation order from the 2000 incident. Earlier this week, Helen and her family learned that his deportation to Mexico had been set.
Despite Trump’s immigration orders ripping her family apart, Helen Beristain is trying to remain positive. Roberto will have to work to reestablish legal status from Mexico – a process that will take at least 9 months – and Helen and her kids are making plans to visit their patriarch south of the border soon.
No word yet on whether President Trump has issued any kind of apology for breaking such a consequential promise to a supporter.
Peter Mellado is a writer, producer, and a branding and messaging specialist with over 15 years experience. He studied history at San Jose State University, and resides in Los Angeles.