Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, an undocumented immigrant, was released from detention after his pro-Trump community rallied around him. (Screen shot via CBS)
President Trump promised a nationwide crackdown on undocumented immigration, and his administration followed through by releasing a set of harsh immigration guidelines last month. Now, the debate over immigration policy and deportation is back in the spotlight.
In the weeks since Trump took office, startling details from individual deportation cases have come to light. There was the undocumented mother of two who had lived in the U.S. for decades; the undocumented woman with a brain tumor, who was held in a detention center despite her medical condition; and the 22-year old undocumented DREAMer who was detained moments after speaking about immigration at a news conference.
These headlines have provoked outrage and empathy from readers around the country, but the detentions and deportations have continued nonetheless. One man’s story, however, has been touted across social media as an antithesis to this tragic narrative.
Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, an undocumented immigrant arrested and detained last month, was released after his community – including local law enforcement – rallied around him.
There’s a catch, though: Hernandez Pacheco’s town of West Frankfort, Illinois voted primarily for Donald Trump. As one man in town put it, Trump promised to “get rid of the bad eggs.”
But when it came to Hernandez Pacheco, a beloved local restaurant owner, residents of West Frankfort were forced to confront their pro-deportation stance. The New York Times writes:
Some call him a symbol of the many undocumented immigrants who are threatened by the Trump administration’s promised crackdown but who have contributed to their communities.
Others have questioned the support from West Frankfort’s mostly white residents, given their backing of Mr. Trump and the plight of a far larger universe of undocumented immigrants — beyond Mr. Hernandez.
Still others say Mr. Hernandez, lauded for his charitable efforts and for taking part in civic groups in West Frankfort, broke the law and should be deported.
This isn’t the first time Trump supporters have been at odds with the president’s deportation policy. During his campaign, his supporters were found to have conflicting views on immigration and deportation.
“Polls suggest that pluralities or even majorities of Trump’s voters reject his proposal to deport all undocumented immigrants and instead favor eventual citizenship for those who are here illegally,” The Washington Post reported in November 2016. “Their attraction to Trump’s punitive positions on immigration, however, appears to be symbolic as opposed to substantive.”
Hernandez Pacheco echoes this viewpoint when discussing his pro-Trump community. “[I]n this case, I don’t think it was much about immigration,” he told the Times. “It was more about energy. It is a coal miner town.”
Many economists argue that his promise of job creation was what catapulted Trump into the White House, and some Trump supporters seem to connect anti-immigration policies with economic growth.
For instance, Randall Shelton, a disabled auto worker from Michigan, told USA Today that he voted for Trump because of his promise to create jobs and get rid of undocumented immigrants “who haven’t paid into the American pie.”
But, like residents of West Frankfort, some Trump voters are encountering moral dilemmas now that the president’s immigration policy is being enacted. One such voter, Sarmad Assali, was forced to analyze her support for the Trump administration after numerous family members were deported.
“I am a supporter of the constitution of the United States, and the freedom that we have here,” Assali told PRI’s “The World”. “I don’t know what [Trump’s] going to do next or if I support what he’s gonna do. I can’t tell at this point.
In fact, many Americans are wondering what Trump will do next, after he appeared to backtrack on his initial immigration policy earlier this week. He told reporters Tuesday that he was interested in “compromise” over an immigration reform bill.
It’s unclear if the current administration will continue its crackdown on undocumented immigration. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids have ramped up in some states since the recent immigration memorandums. Initial reports that ICE raids weren’t out of the ordinary have since been contested, and local communities live in fear of deportation.
Even seemingly-heartwarming stories, like that of Hernandez Pacheco, don’t have happy endings. Despite the community support he’s received, he still faces deportation.
“More than anything,” he said, “I’m nervous about how everything’s going to play out.”