Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped in on Thursday, June 7 to offer free legal aid to the deliveryman who was detained by ICE after attempting to deliver a pizza to Fort Hamilton Army Base in Bay Ridge earlier this month.
On Friday, June 1, 35-year-old Pablo Villavicencio was detained and turned over to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials during a routine food run, officials say, he’d done before with no problem. He’d previously gained access to the base with his IDNYC card – a form of identification put in place by Mayor Bill de Blasio to guarantee all New Yorkers access to basic city services which require identification, regardless of their immigration status.
This time, it wasn’t enough.
His record is clean, officials claim, aside from a warrant for his deportation (he failed to leave the country under court mandate by July, 2010). He’d since married an American citizen, Sandra Chica, the mother of his two children. He is also a taxpayer.
Cuomo spoke with Chica Thursday.
“Sandra spoke to me as a mother of their two daughters – worried for her husband and her children. As a father of three daughters, I can’t imagine the fear she and Pablo are feeling right now,” the governor said. “I had one message for her: Anything we can do to help, we will do.”
The state, he said, has secured pro-bono legal counsel to represent Villavicencio, who is currently being held at a federal detention facility in New Jersey. He is expected to be deported to Ecuador at the end of next week, Chica said at a press conference Wednesday.
The counsel was secured through the first-of-its-kind Liberty Defense Project, the first-in-the-nation, state-led public-private project to assist immigrants, regardless of status, in obtaining access to legal services and process.
“I also assured her that we would provide counsel and support to her and her family during this time of need,” Cuomo said, adding that, “ICE’s arrest of Mr. Villavicencio while he was simply doing his job was an outrageous affront to our New York values.
“Mr. Villavicencio is a father and loving husband, and his detention doesn’t make us any safer,” he went on. “In New York, we stand with our immigrant communities and we will never stop fighting to protect the rights of all New Yorkers.”