Monroe, Ga. — Anthony Pham immigrated to the United States in 1982 from Vietnam and became a citizen five years later, after President Ronald Reagan signed an immigration law that sped the legalization process for millions of new Americans.
Now a business owner and proud Republican in Georgia’s staunchly conservative 10th Congressional District, Pham says he supports maintaining legal status for young immigrants living in the United States illegally who were brought to the country as children.
“When they come here as children, they can become American citizens if they are good, not bad people,” Pham says of the 800,000 or so immigrants affected by President Donald Trump’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Children Program put in place during the Obama administration.
Trump says he’s giving Congress six months to end the limbo status for these young immigrants. Yet Pham says that what Congress does — or doesn’t do — won’t change his support for the president or his congressman, outspoken conservative Jody Hice.
“I am Republican. I am with Mr. Trump,” Pham says, sitting in the courthouse square barbershop he’s owned in Walton County since 1993.
Pham’s view echoes across Republican congressional districts like Georgia’s 10th, a wide expanse of small towns between Atlanta and Augusta. And it highlights the political conundrum facing deeply divided Republicans whom Trump has called on to craft some kind of legislative solution, giving them an election-year deadline.
The conservative voters who dominate here and in many other GOP districts profess varying degrees of sympathy for the immigrants affected by Obama’s program and then Trump’s reversal. But these voters also are convinced that illegal immigration is a drag on Americans’ economic opportunity, and they want the GOP-controlled Congress to stand with a president they see as defending U.S. workers and the rule of law.
Fellow Republican Troy Trantham, 77, says immigrants are “getting the mine” while American workers “are getting the shaft.” That’s a biting version of a common argument here that immigrants, particularly those in the country illegally, get public benefits without paying taxes.
“There needs to be a fix so these kids don’t have to look around the corner for an ICE agent every time they try to contribute to society,” says Joe Hunt, an executive with a restaurant franchising business in Athens.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.