The city of Dardanelle, Arkansas, has everything to be conservative. Alcohol is not available over-the-counter. In addition, it is the hometown of one of the senators with the most severe immigration ideas. And yet, in this dark red republican state, we are more open to immigrants than politicians suggest.
They are about 5000 residents in this small town. Just over one-third are Spanish speakers, maybe half, and their numbers seem to be growing.
Take a stroll through the city and you’ll quickly find traces of their presence, as is the case everywhere in the United States.
There is the old grocery store converted into a tacos factory, the Mexican restaurant and this chicken processing plant. The work is very difficult; the employees are mostly Spanish-speaking.
How many Spanish speakers are here illegally, how many live “in the shadows?” Officially we do not know.
And Dardanelle does not really seem to want to know it.
“I do not know how many of our small businesses we would lose,” says Stacey Daughtrey, the head of the local Chamber of Commerce. “If the Latinos went away, we’d be screwed.”
This energetic little woman voted for Donald Trump, but does not want to see the Latin Americans expelled from his city, not even the illegal ones. A surprising point of view in one of the most conservative areas of the country.
Yet she is not the only one to adopt more moderate positions than those who claim to represent her.
“Politicians who do not understand this, they have never been to a small city that depends on immigration,” concludes Stacey Daughtrey.
Seated in a restaurant, three white conservatives who supported Donald Trump do not hesitate to express their opinions.
Immigration? “If they’re here legally, it’s a good deal,” says Jeff Holt, the group’s most conservative. He especially wants to “prevent criminals and thugs from entering”.
And the stowaways who are already here? The Dreamers , young people illegally taken to the United States by their parents when they were minors, can stay, say the three Republicans.
According to a recent poll, it seems that Glenn Bright, Bill Sparks and Jeff Holt are not the only Americans who believe Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the United States.
Dreamers, there are several in Dardanelle.
One of them works for a republican, a man who does not want to testify. He promised to help his employee if he was expelled from the country. Other stowaways may also stay. As long as they do not have a criminal record.
“It seems pretty difficult to expel 10 or 12 million people,” says Bill Sparks, head of the local republican association.
Opinions that do not match the signals sent by Donald Trump, who speaks very harshly of illegals and supports a bill that would reduce legal immigration by half.
Besides, do not forget that a majority of Americans do not want this famous wall on the Mexican border which he speaks so often.
“No, I do not see a kind of Great Wall of China,” says Glenn Bright at the restaurant. But we need a better system [to better filter those who want to enter]. ”
This is where the ideas of the Republicans of Dardanelle and the President meet; their desire to prevent an immigrant from sponsoring members of the extended family.
What explains this gap between the will of the electorate and the measures supported by the elected Republicans? “Too often, it’s all or nothing. There is no compromise, “says Bill Sparks speaking of the positions of elected officials.
Justice of the peace, he denounces the inflexible positions on both sides and hopes for a compromise on the thorny issue of immigration.
Helen Lewis is a seasoned journalist with nearly 15 years experience. While studying journalism at the University of Alabama, Helen found a passion for finding engaging stories. As a contributor to Alabama Post Gazette, Helen mostly covers human interest pieces.