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Deportations Have Some Communities Questioning Their Support for Trump

Posted on Mar 2, 2017

  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 illegal immigration, and his administration followed through last month by releasing a set of harsh immigration guidelines. Now, the effects of Trump’s policy are being felt across the U.S.

In the weeks since the president 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 antidote 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: The majority of people in Hernandez Pacheco’s town of West Frankfort, Ill., voted for Trump. As one local man put it, Trump promised to “get rid of the bad eggs.”

But when it came to Hernandez Pacheco, a popular local restaurant owner, West Frankfort residents were forced to question 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 last November. “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 it was Trump’s promise of job creation that catapulted him 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 facing a moral dilemma 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.”

Many Americans are wondering the same thing after Trump appeared to modify his initial immigration stance earlier this week. He told reporters Tuesday that he was interested in “compromise” over an immigration reform bill.

Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids have ramped up in some states since recent immigration memorandums were released. Initial reports that ICE raids weren’t out of the ordinary have since been contested, and many local communities live in fear of deportation.

Even Hernandez Pacheco’s story may not have a happy ending. Despite the community support he’s received, he still may be deported

“More than anything,” he said, “I’m nervous about how everything’s going to play out.”

—Posted by Emma Niles.

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