The story of Roberto Beristain and his family has haunted me since his story broke on February 6th. Roberto had been living in South Bend Indiana under an “order of supervision”agreement with DHS. The agreement, under the historical interpretation, allows immigrants with a removal order to remain in the country for humanitarian reasons. Roberto had been doing all the right things. He regularly checked in with DHS, paid his taxes, was raising a family and employing twenty people at the successful restaurant he owned in South Bend. Roberto was arrested at his last DHS check-in and has been deported. His case attracted national attention because his wife had supported Donald Trump. Mrs Beristain claimed she feels betrayed because her husband is in no way a “bad hombre.”
Roberto’s story has been making the rounds on social media where the family is being vilified by the right and the left for harboring a criminal or”getting what they deserved” for voting for Trump. There is a family who’s entire world has been turned upside down and I’m certain if this were someone we knew we would be more sympathetic.
There’s a school of thought emerging that rises in depression and anxiety are the result of our increasingly comfortable lifestyle and resultant insulation from adversity. That’s not to diminish the challenges of modern life but real adversity like hunger, homelessness and persecution are largely removed from the average American’s daily life. With that lack of adversity some of our sense of purpose and ergo hopefulness has diminished. I sense that this void is what leads to a growing lack of empathy for others. Deep down, if feelings of unhappiness undermine our subconscious we lash out at others. I’m just going to leave that right there. It’s just a theory.
I’m a ridiculous optimist. I suppose my privilege affords that. I would hope that others could feel that optimism in this time where we are facing so much uncertainty, dissonance and division. My optimism comes from Roberto’s story and the ugly commentary that has attached to the story. It is my hope that reasonable people might see that and say, “Wait! What?” This family is being torn apart and both sides are piling onto their suffering. We’ve got to be better than that. There lies our hope, our purpose our challenge in the face of adversity. It’s time we quit knee-jerk responding with hostility and dismissiveness. The intersectional grievances of our discontent can be a point of unity. I’m going to chase that idea for a little bit. Will you join me?