Residents of West Frankfort, IL rallying to help fellow community member in immigration battle

WEST FRANKFORT, IL (KFVS) - Almost 700 people are behind bars as of tonight, sparking protests after recent immigration efforts nationwide.

According to the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs enforcement, many of them had been charged with violent crimes, drug offenses, or cases of sexual assault.

But tonight, a Heartland community has spoken out, furious that one of their own community members was caught up in the mix - a person who they say is anything but a "threat to public safety."

"If he doesn't come back to West Frankfort, it's going to be a tremendous loss - not only to West Frankfort but to southern Illinois," said Tim Grigsby.

Grigsby, as well as others, have been busy in the past week - mainly organizing letters from the community of West Frankfort.

"I've known Carlos for about 10 years... We've known each other and done things as far as fundraising, some of the things popping up in these letters of support, we had no idea that he had reached out and touched so many different lives."

Carlos Pacheco, long-time manager of an area restaurant, also spent time raising money for various charities and organizing fundraisers for local high school students.

"He contributes to this community in so many ways it's immeasurable - you can't measure it," said Grigsby.

Pacheco also spent time traveling back and forth to immigration offices in St Louis and Chicago, fighting to gain legal status and American citizenship - nearly 9 years.

Pacheco was caught up in paperwork - and guilty of a nearly decade old DUI charge (which lawyers say he's already served time for).

He was taken into custody by immigration authorities and is scheduled to see a judge March 1 to discuss his immigration status.

"Immediately when we found out, Tim and I and some of his friends started to put together a plan," said Grigsby.

That plan? Help convince officials to give back what many in West Frankfort call one of their favorite citizens.

"Most of them said the same thing - and that was we've been waiting for you to call, so we know what to do… because he's just touched so many people, that they were just sitting on go," said Grigsby.

As of February 17, Pacheco sits behind bars in Montgomery County, Missouri.

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