A California man who married his Mexican fiancée in a ceremony on the San Diego border that went viral last year has been sentenced to prison for drug smuggling.
Brian Houston and Evelia Reyes fell in love with Tijuana through alcohol and gambling last year, but their relationship came to an impasse when they realized neither of them could get into each other’s land.
They turned to the Door of Hope – a large steel maintenance door in the fence along the California border with Mexico where families could reunite with loved ones.
Border Angels, a nonprofit that supports immigrants, hosted the Border Patrol-approved wedding of Houston and Reyes at the Door of Hope at Border Field State Park on November 18, 2017.
The world – and many border guards – watched as the couple tied the knot in a heartwarming ceremony attended by nearly a dozen families in front of the screen.
Only then did the authorities find out why Houston could not have entered Mexico.
Months earlier, he pleaded guilty to smuggling heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine into the United States.
This week, Houston was sentenced to 41 months in prison, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Houston and Evelia Reyes tied the knot at the Door of Hope on the U.S.-Mexico border last year. They are pictured with their two children
Houston underwent a background check before the ceremony was approved by Border Patrol, but his arrest for smuggling criminal offenses earlier this year was initially unknown
Houston said at the time that the couple were getting married in the special ceremony because they couldn’t cross the line – but declined to elaborate on it.
He neglected to mention his arrest in February, when agents said they found 43 pounds of heroin, 47 pounds of methamphetamine and 43 pounds of cocaine in his Volkswagen as he crossed the San Ysidro port of entry.
“The agents are upset, taken advantage of, and betrayed,” said Joshua Wilson, vice president and spokesman for National Border Patrol Council Local 1613 at the San Diego Tribune. “It turns out we provided armed security for a cartel wedding.”
When the enraged border police learned of Houston’s criminal past, they closed the door of hope forever.
Pleading ignorance, Border Angels said in a statement: “Border Angels has never carried out background checks as the Border Patrol advised us to carry out all background checks and tell us which families have been evicted.”
Border Patrol spokesman Takae Michael said Houston had been “screened by Morones through an internal screening process based on biographical information provided to us.”
“A review of the information provided through our DHS systems revealed no criminal activity,” said Michael.
Border guards were furious when they learned of Houston’s criminal records after overseeing the ceremony, which was watched around the world
The wedding was organized by Border Angels, an immigrant rights advocacy group that launched the Door of Hope program to help families reunite across the border
The Border Patrol said that after the wedding, “a follow-up review of Houston’s information was completed and a match for a previous drug smuggling arrest was confirmed”.
‘We were shocked to learn of Brian Houston’s very serious criminal situation last week. That contradicts everything Border Angels stands for, ”said the organization’s executive director, Enrique Morones.
Shortly after Houston’s criminal past was revealed, the door of hope was permanently closed.
The heavy steel gate, which was opened six times between 2013 and 2017, is only open for maintenance.
It is located in a small strip of land where families can see each other from both sides but cannot touch each other whenever they want.
During the wedding that ultimately brought about the downfall, Evelia Reyes came from the Mexican side in a white wedding dress, a long flowing train, and a white veil.
She was accompanied by three children from her previous marriage, including a young daughter who was also dressed in white.
“This wall doesn’t exist for a relationship, there are no limits to love,” enthused Reyes.
At the gate, a Mexican judge promptly married her to Houston, who approached from the US side in an elegant gray suit.
The wife of the mayor of Tijuana and the local Mexican human rights officer acted as witnesses.
“It’s a statement that love has no limits,” Houston told reporters during the ceremony. “Even though we’re separated by a huge fence here, we can still love each other on either side of the fence.”
Reyes, a native of the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, said she met Houston in Tijuana three years earlier.
Houston and Reyes are still together, although it is unknown when they will be able to reunite
At the time of the wedding, Houston said the couple would get married in the special ceremony because they couldn’t cross the line – but declined to elaborate
Court documents indicate that drug smuggling through the San Ysidro port of entry had bottomed out on February 28, 2017 for Houston, who became addicted to alcohol and gambling for the first time at the college of San Diego State University.
While attending school, he made frequent trips to town, where he later met his wife.
“Brian acted on a primitive level to get money so he could keep making a bet that would free him from his debts and misery,” wrote defense attorney Russell Babcock in a judgment memorandum received from the Union Tribune.
In a letter to U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, Houston described how gambling got his psyche under control, which resulted in him leaving San Diego state and leaving a bright future in music to go to gambling school.
He later moved to Las Vegas where the addiction worsened.
“Since alcohol was unlimited and free while gambling, I always felt it was necessary to drink as much as possible to make a living,” Houston wrote in the letter.
“The more alcohol I would consume, the more outrageous bets I would place on what a recipe for disaster.”
When he returned to San Diego, trips to Tijuana began again.
It was there that he met Reyes and their two children, who gave him hope to change his life just before he was arrested for drug possession.
Houston pleaded guilty. While he was in custody, he received intensive treatment for his gambling and alcohol addiction.
He and Reyes are still together, although it is not known when they will be able to reunite.