ICE hauled this illegal immigrant away for deportation. His Trump-supporting neighbors are fighting to bring him back to West Frankfort, Ill.
Wait a minute. These Trump voters don’t want this guy deported?
On Feb. 9, police arrived at Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco’s home in West Frankfort, Ill. and hauled him off for deportation proceedings. The Herald & Review reports the dreaded U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is holding Pacheco in a detention center in Missouri.
Never mind that his wife, Elizabeth, and their three young sons are all U.S. Citizens. Never mind that he’s been working with an immigration lawyer and has been trying to gain legal status for the past nine years. Alas, his DUI convictions from 2007 got him singled out. Now, his attorney’s trying to get him released on bond, but things aren’t looking good.
Since Trump began cracking down on undocumented immigrants, these sad stories are playing out across the country. But this one comes with a surprise twist. You’d think the people of West Frankfort — a struggling, mostly white, Coal Country town where 70 percent voted for Donald Trump — would be cheering on the ICE raiders. Instead, they’re in an uproar.
As it turns out, Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco is a much-loved fixture in this community. He manages La Fiesta, a popular Mexican restaurant, but that’s not all. He knows everyone, attends local events, supports local charities and groups, and is always happy to lend a helping hand.
In his role as manager, Pacheco has hosted countless benefits at the restaurant for people facing financial hardship and illness, as well as fundraisers for Redbirds’ sports teams tied to the Frankfort school district and other community causes. In October, he hosted a Blue Lives Matter appreciation night for West Frankfort and Franklin County law enforcement and other first responders.
Pacheco also got the restaurant — a small chain in Southern Illinois — to start a yearly scholarship for a student athlete who excels in academics. Among Pacheco’s friends is Tim Grigsby, the owner of a local print shop. He created an email account — [email protected] — to gather letters of support from neighbors.
The letters will be presented as part of his plea to the court for him to remain in the U.S. with his family, Grigsby said. The long list of letter writers in his support include West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan, Fire Chief Jody Allen and Assistant Chief of Police Shawn Talluto.
Among them is this stunning missive from West Frankfort’s mayor, Tom Jordan, who calls Pacheco a “great asset” to the town, who “doesn’t ask for anything in return.”
When asked about Pacheco by The Southern, West Frankfort’s state rep., Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) answered:
“That’s something that our office can definitely work with and it sounds like something we can help on.”
Like Trump, Bost has called for “immigration reform” and more border security.
Meanwhile, West Frankfort residents have likely startled their fellow Trump supporters from out-of-town with their new Facebook profile pics.
The New York Times adds that other West Frankfort stalwarts have also chimed in. Jody Allen, the Fire Dept. chief called him a “man of great character.” Richard Glodich, the local high school’s athletic director exclaimed, “you have arrested a GOOD MAN that should be used as a role model for other immigrants.”
If you’ve been scratching your head, these two quotes from The New York Times article may help explain the disconnect:
- “I knew he was Mexican, but he’s been here so long, he’s just one of us,” said Debra Johnson, a resident. She said she saw a distinction between “people who come over and use the system and people who actually come and help.”
- “I think people need to do things the right way, follow the rules and obey the laws, and I firmly believe in that,” said Lori Barron, the owner of Lori’s Hair A’Fairs, a beauty salon. “But in the case of Carlos, I think he may have done more for the people here than this place has ever given him. I think it’s absolutely terrible that he could be taken away.”
For many Trump voters, there are “those” Mexicans — the lazy, drug dealing, welfare-collecting, border crossing criminals they see on Fox News — and “our” Mexicans, like Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco. They see Pacheco as a person like themselves, who is hard-working, law abiding, and deserving. They find comfort and certainty in Donald Trump’s clear, black-and-white pronouncements. Alas, public policy and the law don’t work that way.
Immigration is a complex issue for many reasons, including the fact that just about every Mexican who came to the U.S. illegally is still “our” Mexican to someone.
WATCH: West Frankfort backed Trump, now rallies around Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco.
Featured image: Video screen grab via The New York Daily News.