Popular Palm Beach restaurant manager Javier Gonzalez facing deportation

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- - After years of battling to stay near his family, a popular restaurant manager on Palm Beach is preparing to be deported to Mexico.

Francisco Javier Gonzalez -- known by the community as Javier -- is saying farewell to the countless customers and friends he's made on the island, especially at Pizza Al Fresco where he has worked for nearly 10 years.

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In just a few weeks, he has been ordered to appear at a U.S. Immigration office in Miramar, where his attorney said he is likely to be taken into custody and deported.

The 36-year old moved to Palm Beach County from Mexico 20 years ago as a teenager to be near his brother, using what he thought was a valid visa.

When he returned to visit his parents in Mexico some years later, that is when he said he learned the visa wasn't valid.

"Unfortunately, yes, I made that mistake without even knowing. And I feel like I deserve a second chance," he told WPTV.

After that, he said he returned to the country illegally to continue the life he established in South Florida, which has complicated his case with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement  (ICE) officials.

Gonzalez has no criminal record. He's married to a U.S. citizen and has three young, American-born children ages 6, 8 and 11.

Over the years. Gonzalez says he's checked in regularly with immigration authorities as he works to become a citizen. He has waivers for permanent residency pending and has applied for a green card.

However, with recent crackdowns on illegal immigration by federal authorities, Gonzalez says he knew his time was running short.

When he checked in with ICE officers on March 17, he was told unless he left the country on his own, he would most likely be taken into custody during his next check-in this month.

Now, Gonzalez is preparing for what may come next. The restaurant manager bid farewell to the community during a town hall meeting on Tuesday.

"I really want to stay here. I hope the system will give me a chance to accomplish my mission of raising my three daughters in this beautiful town," he said.

Gonzalez's lawyer spent some time in Washington, D.C. to meet with Senator Marco Rubio, Congress and customs officials to fight for his case.

There's also a petition on Change.org, with nearly 40,000 signatures urging border patrol to stop the deportation.

 

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