NW Fla. community raises over $4K for teen facing possible deportation

Local News

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A recent high school graduate could be deported to Honduras after he was pulled over by Florida Highway Patrol just over a week ago.

“He’s just really scared for his future,” Janice Shirley said. “He’s worked so hard at this point to get where he is now.”

Janice adopted Gustavo Pineda-Mendoza when he was 13 years old.

“He had no one there except for a grandmother,” Janice said. “So my husband and I were doing mission work in Honduras, and we met Gustavo so we were able to adopt him and get him into Tate High School.”

At Tate, he was a standout soccer player. He also met Director of Football Operations Neal Johnson who became a father figure in Gustavo’s life. Gustavo became friends with Neal’s son Matt Johnson who this week set up a GoFundMe that has raised more than $4,000.

“When people pull together, what we can do, that’s just been very very rewarding to me and to see what’s happened,” Janice said.

Gustavo wants to join the U.S. Navy. He graduated high school last year but the pandemic delayed his getting citizenship. In the meantime, he was working in Okaloosa County and was pulled over on January 18. He was charged with driving without a valid license and having a forged license. He’s now in an ICE detention facility near Tallahassee.

“He’s just always been so respectful to people and never asked for any favors or anything in return,” Janice said. “He’s just always gave everything and always willing to help and that’s just the type of kid he is. He’s just the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.”

An appeal has been filed to stop deportation. They hope to use the money raised to get him out on bond next week, get his green card then eventually citizenship.

President Joe Biden announced last week a 100-day moratorium on most deportations, but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the 100-day pause. A temporary restraining order that halts the moratorium was issued.

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