The story of a woman who voted for President Trump and whose husband now faces deportation has gone viral, because it highlights the complexities and gray areas of the White House's immigration policies.
According to the South Bend Tribune, Helen Beristain, 43, migrated from Greece over 30 years ago and is a U.S. citizen. Her husband, Roberto Beristain, came illegally from Mexico in 1998. Together, they own a restaurant and have raised three kids in the state of Indiana. But because of an incident that happened 17 years ago, Roberto is set to be deported back to Mexico on Friday.
In 2000, the couple visited Niagara Falls and accidentally crossed into the Canadian border, Indiana Public Media reported. Once there, border agents detained Roberto when they realized he had been in the U.S. illegally. Even though Helen was able to bail him out, a federal judge told them Roberto had to leave the country within 60 days.
That didn't happen. Roberto decided he would not self-deport because at the time, his wife was pregnant with their daughter. An ICE spokesperson confirmed to Indiana Public Media that because Roberto didn't leave the country, his voluntary order was changed to a final order of removal. This meant that at any time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could detain him.
ICE didn’t act on that order — until now.
For the last decade-and-a-half, Roberto has been checking in every year with ICE agents, the South Bend Tribune reported. He has no criminal record, and was even able to get a driver’s license, work permit, and social security card with the agency's permission.
Years went by. In the 2016 election, Helen voted for Trump.
"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," she said. "You want to feel safe when you leave your house. I truly believe that. And, this is why I voted for Mr. Trump."
But in February, she came to the heartbreaking realization that the Trump administration's immigration policies apply to every undocumented immigrant — not only those who are perceived to be "bad."
Roberto went for his annual check-in with immigration officials, and was arrested by ICE agents.
"They came outside, knocked on the window," Helen told Indiana Public Media. "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.'"
She added, "He’s trying to hold up. 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.'"
Since the arrest, the family has had to deal with the fact that Roberto will be deported and probably barred from coming back to the U.S. for 10 years. His lawyer told BuzzFeed News the family will try to get him on a waiver program so he's able to return to the country. Roberto also applied for a green card based on his marriage to Helen, but the application has been pending since 2007.
In the meantime, Helen has felt misled by the promises the president made during his campaign.
"[Trump] did say the good people would not be deported," she told Indiana Public Media. "The good people would be checked."