Friends rally behind restaurant manager detained by ICE

Friends in West Frankfort are rallying behind a popular restaurant manager detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"There would be a huge hole if he doesn’t come back here. It would be a very detrimental thing for our community," said Tim Grigsby, a longtime friend of Carlos Hernandez Pacheco. Grigsby said Pacheco is being detained by ICE in a Missouri detention facility after he was arrested earlier in the month. Grigsby and his friend Mark Williams say Pacheco has found countless ways to help the community, and now they’re trying to do what they can to help him.

"Great father, great husband, and great friend," Williams said. He said that’s the easiest way to describe his friend. Pacheco is the manager of La Fiesta restaurant in West Frankfort. He’s been living there illegally since 1997, moving from Mexico to help make money to send home for his sick sister.

Williams and Grigsby call Pacheco a good, caring person who is constantly helping others. His wife and kids are U.S. citizens, and Grigsby said Pacheco has been trying to become a U.S. citizen himself for nine years.

"His paperwork’s been sitting on someone’s desk but they’ve not really had any progress to this point. Now his case is at the top and they’re looking at it," Grigsby said. He said he spoke with him this morning from the detention facility and Pacheco is staying hopeful.  Pacheco was not the target of arrest when ICE officials came to West Frankfort but when they ran his paperwork and found a DUI, they took him in, according to Grigsby.

While Pacheco waits on a decision, his attorney asked Williams and Grigsby for a five to seven letters of character. Within days, people had sent more than 75 to, including letters from the mayor and fellow community members.

"When we called, it was ‘We’ve been waiting for someone to tell us what we can do to help’. And it was, you know, all those folks that he’d touched their lives in some way that were looking forward to doing something," Williams said. Friends hope that show of support can bring Pacheco home to the friends, family and community that loves him.

"He hopes to come home soon," Grigsby said. He and Williams said they’re not giving up hope. They say they’ll keep fighting for Pacheco, because his family and friends know West Frankfort is his home.

Friends say a bond hearing for Pacheco will be held March 1. They’re hoping he’ll be able to go home while waiting on a final decision on his immigration status.

We reached out to ICE for this story. The federal law enforcement agency did not immediately respond or comment.

You can read letters of support folks have written for Pacheco below this story.