Shaw High graduate waits to appear in immigration court, facing deportation

Shaw High graduate waits to appear in immigration court, facing deportation
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The wait continues for Jose Gonzalez Ochoa and his loved ones.

Since last Easter Sunday, he's been sitting inside the Stewart County Detention Center, detained for his current immigration status, and facing deportation.

In 2016, Gonzalez graduated from Shaw High School. That's where he met his girlfriend Marta Lopez, who said Gonzalez is not only a hard-working, smart student but also a caring person who wants to contribute to his community.

"He has something to offer this country," Lopez said.

"He loves helping people. We'll go to McDonald's and he'll see a homeless guy, he'll say, 'I'm going to go buy you a burger," Lopez said.

Gonzalez arrived in Columbus as a teenager, after his father had come back to his native Guatemala to bring him stateside.

Gonzalez's former teacher at Shaw, Rebecca Hagues, said she remembers him eventually sharing his circumstances with fellow classmates and teachers.

"Once we built up that trust, he became much more comfortable in telling us what was going on and what he needed in order to be successful," said Hagues.

On Easter Sunday, Gonzalez was out driving with his girlfriend, when Harris County Sheriff's deputies pulled him over for speeding.

When asked to produce a license, he had no identification. Lopez wants the justice system to take into consideration what her boyfriend has offered and will continue to offer his community.

"I want people to understand he is not a bad person," she said. "He doesn't want to hurt anybody, he just wants to help. It's not his fault like he didn't choose to come here. One day, he didn't say, 'Oh, you know what? I'm going to cross the border today, just because I feel like it."

Lopez has hired an attorney out of Macon, to help Gonzalez get an appearance in immigration court next week, to show his case.

The attorney will argue, Lopez said, that Gonzalez qualifies for what's known as a "U-Visa." To qualify for this visa, Gonzalez' legal counsel plans to argue his client is the victim of mental and physical abuse from a family member.

In looking at deportation policies in the state of Georgia, only two counties in the Peach State offer sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

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