ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --
For the first time, the fire chief who hired a firefighter facing deportation speaks about the situation.
Albuquerque firefighter Jose Gonzales, who’s a legal resident but not a U.S. citizen, works out of the fire marshal’s office downtown. He was charged in connection to a fatal drive-by shooting in the '90s when he was a juvenile, and the fire chief was well aware of it when he hired Gonzales.
“He had actually been exonerated from the charges and there was no felony or charges that were pending against him,” former fire chief Robert Ortega said.
Ortega said he reviewed Gonzales’ 2001 application that details the incident and it clearly states Gonzales was put on probation.
“We took it at face value turned it over to human resources and then followed through on the hiring,” Ortega said.
Ortega was actually listed as a reference on the application. He said he followed Gonzales’ basketball career at Albuquerque High School, and eventually became his mentor. They worked together for eight years.
“He was a good firefighter. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, he had already been promoted through the process to the next level,” Ortega said.
Now, Gonzales’ job is on the line after getting picked up by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement last month.
ICE said the drive-by shooting more than a decade ago is deportable offense and considers his no contest plea a conviction.
An immigration judge will now decide whether or not Gonzales gets deported. He’s currently locked up in El Paso. He should have his hearing in the next few weeks.
Gonzales is still employed pending the outcome of the case.
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