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Deportation Forcing Iowa Couple to Close Decade-Old Restaurant in Hopes of Gaining American Citizenship

PERRY, Iowa  --  Perry's El Buen Gusto has been the Barco family's livelihood since 2009.

Speaking about her parents, 22-year-old Marisa Barco said, "They wake up thinking of the restaurant, they go to sleep thinking of the restaurant. They are here from eight in the morning until ten at night."

Charity Sumner-Ehman makes the 30-minute drive from Jefferson often just for their Papusas. She said, "Oh they are yummy and they make them just right."

Marisa's parents, Edith and Carlos Barco, the owners of the restaurant, moved to America from Guatemala in the 1990s. Marisa said, "I was born in 1995 in California and they came to Iowa when I was five months old, so I've lived in Perry my whole life."

Marisa says her parents have always stayed current with their work visas in search of the American dream of beginning their own business. "Everybody knows us here. We are in the middle of Perry, so a lot of people come and enjoy my mom's cooking."

There was always one thing her parents wanted most: citizenship.

"My parents have been working on their case for more than 15 years," said Marisa.

Finally in 2014, an immigration judge reviewed their case, but a decision did not come down until 2017, telling them they'd have to voluntarily deport back to Guatemala in order to gain citizenship. The Barcos appealed, hoping they could earn citizenship without leaving their family and business behind, but it was denied by the Board of Immigration Appeals a year later in February 2018.  It gives them just 60 days to move back to Guatemala in hopes of becoming American citizens.

"The lawyer says it takes two to three years for the whole process to happen," said Marisa.

For almost a decade, El Buen Gusto has thrived in downtown Perry. While the Barcos say they understand the immigration process, many customers believe the owners and the restaurant belong in Perry. "They are Perry citizens. I know that, I truly know that," said Sumner-Ehman.

The Barcos are now leaving the place they have called home for over two decades, closing down one American dream in hopes of beginning another. Marisa said, "We don't know if it is a guarantee, but we are hoping it will be.

El Buen Gusto will close on March 24th.  A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Edith and Carlos with moving expenses.