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A Mexican citizen who helps Latin Americans in North Carolina fight government deportation was arrested early Monday morning by U.S. Border Patrol officers at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

And now, 36-year-old Rausel Arista will have to fight his own deportation battle.

According to officials of La Coalición, a Latin American human rights organization in Charlotte, N.C., Arista is being held as an illegal alien in the Buffalo Detention Center, a Batavia facility run by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

Arista, described by the organization as an undocumented alien who is married to an American citizen, spent several days visiting the family of a friend in Perry, in Wyoming County. The organization said Arista was preparing to fly back to Charlotte when he was arrested at the Buffalo airport about 5:30 a.m.

“People in Charlotte are very upset about this,” said Liz Beaumont, an employment coordinator for La Coalición. “They are having rallies and marches over this ... Rausel has spent years working with our coalition, helping people and families who have been trying to help people who have had immigration problems.”

Arista is an undocumented alien, but he is married to an American citizen, and he and his wife have two young sons who were born in America, Beaumont said. Although Arista has lived in the United States for 15 years, he has never obtained legal status as a resident of the U.S., she said.

“But he has flown around the U.S. many times, and never had any problem before this,” Beaumont said. “He has a Mexican passport, and no criminal record.”

Matthew Bitterman, a Buffalo spokesman for the Border Patrol, confirmed Arista’s arrest and said he faces Immigration Court proceedings that could lead to deportation, but declined to comment in further detail Monday afternoon.

A Buffalo immigration attorney, Matthew L. Kolken, who represents Arista, told The Buffalo News that he is hopeful that his client can avoid deportation and remain in the U.S.

“Based on his strong family ties, and the fact that he has been here for many years, I am hopeful that we will be able to help him attain legal status to stay here,” Kolken said.

A local rally supporting Arista, a construction contractor, was scheduled for Monday night outside the detention center in Batavia.

email: dherbeck@buffnews.com