NEW: Why this Palm Beach restaurant manager facing deportation remains hopeful


Someone had to unload the box of red wine, so Francisco Javier Gonzalez grabbed two bottles and began stowing them on a shelf.

He had come to Pizza Al Fresco on Wednesday, and every other day, to work. To not think about his immigration status. To not think about what might happen later this week, when he will meet with customs agents again. To not think about what might happen to his family, who he may be forced to leave behind as early as Friday.

Just one day earlier came a grim update: the Houston Office of Customs and Border protection had refused to revoke an expedited order of removal for Gonzalez, a longtime Palm Beach restaurant manager who faces deportation to Mexico, according to Richard Hujber, Gonzalez’s lawyer.

RELATED: What happened to the popular Palm Beach restaurant manager facing deportation

Gonzalez, 36, first came to the United States when he was 15, using what he thought was a valid visa. He returned to Mexico after high school, but when he re-entered the United States, he was told his visa was not valid and was issued an expedited order of removal and a five-year ban. Gonzalez was deported but re-entered the country before the five years were up. Still a teenager at the time, Gonzalez said he wasn’t sure what he was doing was illegal.

Hujber and Gonzalez now will ask the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters in Washington, D.C., to reconsider Gonzalez’s request to revoke the expedited order of removal, Hujber said.

“This is devastating news,” Hujber wrote on change.orgwhere about 90,000 people have signed a petition to stop the deportation of Gonzalez. “We are now seeking reconsideration.”

On Friday, Gonzalez is scheduled to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Miramar for an update on his status. But Wednesday morning, preparing to open Pizza Al Fresco for service, he remained optimistic. He said he has faith that immigration officers will make an exception for him.

Original story: Prominent Palm Beach restaurant manager faces risk of deportation

“I feel like I deserve a second chance,” Gonzalez said. “And I just feel like they’re going to make the right decision.”

Gonzalez has been the manager at Pizza Al Fresco since 2009 and has a wife and three daughters, ages 11, 8 and 6. Gonzalez said they do not know their father might be deported.

“Those three girls. What is going to happen to them?” said a teary-eyed Arlene Desiderio, who owns Pizza Al Fresco with her son, Jose Duran. “The trauma they’re going to have to go through, that’s my main concern.”

On Tuesday night, while Desiderio was out eating dinner with Gonzalez, other customers, one by one, came to the table to talk with Gonzalez.

“We’re praying for you, Javier,” they said. “We’re praying for you.”

“He’s such a special guy,” said Duran, sitting next to his mother before Pizza Al Fresco opened Wednesday. “If the worst happens, it’s going to create a void that going to be horrible.”

Much of Palm Beach has rallied behind Gonzalez. Along with the thousands of signatures on the online petition to stop him from being deported, the Worth Avenue Association urged its members and residents in an email to help Gonzalez any way they can.

“So many people know and love him,” said Marley Herring, president of the Worth Avenue Association. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Richard Nernberg, a former lawyer and resident who sees Gonzalez whenever he eats at Pizza Al Fresco, wrote a letter to fellow resident and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Friday, urging him to make an exception for Gonzalez’s case. Nernberg said Ross hasn’t responded.

“I know (Gonzalez), and I feel a terrible injustice is being done,” Nernberg said. “It’s a travesty of policy and justice.”

Vanina Schreiber, a server at Pizza Al Fresco who said she has known Gonzalez since he first came to Palm Beach, said she has sensed the possibility of deportation has been hard on Gonzalez, but said he doesn’t let it show. He always stays positive, she said, even when he was just 15, working as a busboy.

“Always,’ she said. “He’s the American dream.”

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