ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The Albuquerque man who is being hailed a hero for chasing down a kidnapper and saving a 6-year-old girl said he's an illegal immigrant. Antonio Diaz Chacón, 23, is now at the center of the debate over illegal immigration.
"We're just trying to take it all in," said Martha Diaz Chacón, who was translating for her husband.
Diaz Chacón, who works as a mechanic, became an instant celebrity with hundreds of news stories written about him across the country and people from coast to coast wanting to send the hero their thanks.
"He thinks this happened for a reason," said Martha.
Diaz Chacón and Martha, who is a U.S. citizen, have been married for two years. The couple has been living in Albuquerque for four years.
Diaz Chacón said he's tried to get his citizenship in the past but stopped after the process became too time-consuming and expensive.
Still, he believes there is a reason why he was the one to save the girl Monday night.
"Now that everywhere people are attacking immigrants, he thinks this happened for a reason, for people to know that immigrants aren't just criminals," said Martha.
Immigrant rights groups are using Diaz Chacón's story to counter the calls for deporting all illegal immigrants. President Barack Obama announced Thursday his administration will only focus on deporting illegal immigrants who commit crimes.
Javier Martinez, associate director of the Partnership for Community Action, said Obama's new deportation policy is the beginning of immigration reform, but he said the news isn't as promising in New Mexico. Gov. Susana Martinez continues to fight to repeal the law that issues driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
"The governor is ignoring the complexity of immigration," said Javier Martinez. "Most immigrants in New Mexico who have a driver's license are here because they want to work, make a better life for themselves and their families. In some cases, save others lives as we saw in Mr. Diaz Chacón."
Gov. Martinez said she believes foreign nationals in the country legally, through work permits or visas, should be able to receive driver's licenses but is opposed to giving IDs to illegal immigrants.
"The radical special-interest groups shamefully exploiting this man, who may or may not be here illegally, to further their cause cannot ignore the litany of well-documented cases of this policy that put the public at risk, one of which occurred literally a few blocks away at a Denny's restaurant in 2009 when gang members from El Salvador who had driver's licenses committed a murder," said Scott Darnell, a spokesman for the governor.
Diaz Chacón isn't concerned he revealed his immigration status to the media because he said "he's done nothing wrong."
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