A Mexican man who spent almost two decades living in the United States was deported back to his home country late Tuesday, separating him from his US-born wife, who voted for President Donald Trump.
Roberto Beristain, 43, had been in custody since he was detained on Feb. 6 during a routine check-in with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. After spending almost two months in detention centers across six states, the Indiana resident was suddenly taken alone to Juarez, Mexico, late Tuesday night, he said in a statement released by his attorneys, who had filed legal petitions requesting his release.
“They suddenly told me it was time to go,” Beristain said. “They told me to get my stuff, they put me in the back of a van, and sped toward the border.
"They took me to another facility while in transport to sign paperwork. I asked to speak with my attorney, but was told there wasn’t time for that. At around 10:00 pm, I was dropped off at the Mexico-US Border and walked into Mexico.”
His representatives had previously said they feared Beristain would be deported last month.
Beristain's lawyer Adam Ansari told BuzzFeed News he believed his client's removal from the US was rushed in order to "short-circuit the judicial system."
"It all happened very, very quickly, and it's like immigration services just wanted to get him out of the country so they didn't have the potential challenge," Ansari said.
The Chicago-based attorney said he had been speaking with government officials on Tuesday night who had indicated Beristain would remain in the US until at least Wednesday.
"We have 10 different attorneys working on this throughout the country and they all agree that this is highly unusual," he said.
Jessica K. Miles, another member of Beristain's legal team, said in a statement that "the manner and speed" of his deportation "coupled with misleading statements from ICE leadership about when he would be removed show a blatant disregard for his procedural rights.”
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa did not address the lawyers' allegations, but confirmed Beristain had been "turned over to Mexican authorities" Tuesday at the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas.
Beristain arrived in the US in 1998 to visit his relative, but decided to remain in the US without the proper immigration documents. After marrying an American woman, Helen Beristain, the Mexican national was briefly detained at the US-Canadian border in 2000 when the couple made a wrong turn while driving at Niagara Falls. After posting bail, Beristain was released on a voluntary self-deportation order, giving him 60 days to leave the country, but he decided to remain in the US to be with his pregnant wife.
For many years, ICE agents took no action against Beristain, despite the order of removal against him. As he bought a local restaurant in Granger, Indiana, he checked in annually with officials, and was even able to obtain a driver's license, social security card, and work permit, according to his family.
Under Obama-era directives, ICE had concentrated mainly on deporting criminals and those who posed a threat to public safety. However, following President Trump's signing of an executive order in January on immigration, emboldened ICE agents have been detaining hundreds of undocumented immigrants, including those not charged with any crimes.
Helen Beristain told Indiana Public Media she voted for Trump, believing he would not deport "good people."
“[Trump] did say the good people would not be deported, the good people would be checked,” she said.
Ansari told BuzzFeed News that despite Beristain's deportation he and his fellow attorneys would "keep on filing and press on with the motions that are pending."
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David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
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