BREAKING: Restaurant manager thanks backers after deportation reprieve

Updated July 14, 2017
In this undated photograph Francisco Javier Gonzalez, manager of Pizza Al Fresco, with his wife Tara Gonzalez, and daughter Aviana, left, Bianca, center, and Karina, right. (Photo courtesy Gonzalez family)

Francisco Javier Gonzalez, the manager of the Pizza Al Fresco restaurant on Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue who was facing the risk of deportation under President Donald Trump’s new immigration policy, on Friday thanked the thousands of people who signed an online petition on his behalf.

“I really want to thank the community,” he said. “Me and my family really appreciate the support. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Gonzalez was scheduled to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in Broward County this morning, at which point he could have faced deportation. But his Boynton Beach immigration attorney Richard Hujber said Thursday the meeting has been delayed for three months.

A Change.org petition created by Hujber last week to raise awareness about Gonzalez’s case had more than 8,400 signatures as of Thursday.

In an update posted on the petition just before 7 p.m. Thursday, Hujber said there was “no doubt” that the petition helped win Gonzalez an extension.

“It appears that they have recognized the vast efforts we have made on his behalf, and the amazing support from the South Florida community, as well as people from all around the world — all in support of this urgent and compelling case,” Hujber wrote. “Javier and his family thank everyone who took the time and effort to sign the petition, and also make calls and share this petition with so many others.”

Gonzalez has no criminal record, a U.S. citizen spouse and three U.S.-born daughters.

Although he is married, his immigration case is complicated. He came to the U.S. to live with his brother when he was 15 years old using what he thought was a valid visa. After high school, he returned to Mexico to visit family members. When he came back to the U.S., he was told at the airport that his visa was not valid. He was deported and ordered not to return for a 5-year-period.

Gonzalez didn’t wait. He crossed the border illegally. And despite marrying a U.S. citizen, the illegal crossing has been an obstacle in his efforts to obtain a green card.

In his update Thursday, Hujber cautioned supporters that the case is not over.

“While today was an important victory and a significant step in this process, this cause will continue and is far from over,” he wrote. “We look forward to additional progress in the months ahead, with the hope that when Javier again must report to DHS/ICE in less than three months, we will be able to achieve additional — and hopefully permanent — success.”