Pablo Villavicencio, the 35-year-old deliveryman and father of two who in June was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after attempting to deliver pizza to the Fort Hamilton Army Base has been freed, officials said Tuesday.
The news comes just days after locals protested outside the Bay Ridge base in defense of Villavicencio, a native of Ecuador, who faced deportation. Those same activists promised to “storm” the court house at which Villavicencio pleaded his case Tuesday.
On Friday, June 1, Villavicencio was detained and turned over to ICE officials during a routine food run that supporters said 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.
According to both ICE and Fort Hamilton officials, Villavicencio was flagged for an outstanding warrant during a voluntary background check to enter the base. Villavicencio, who had been granted voluntary departure by an immigration judge in March of 2010, failed to leave the country by July of that year – the deadline he’d be given.
He’d since married an American citizen, Sandra Chica, the mother of his children, Luciana, 4 and Antonia, 2. He is also a taxpayer. In February, the pair began to apply for the deliveryman’s residency status. All of this, coupled with Villavicencio’s clean record, protesters argued, points to a broken immigration system.
Also citing his record, Manhattan federal judge Paul Crotty ruled Tuesday that Villavicencio has the right to obtain a waiver to kill the order of removal. “Although he stayed in the United States unlawfully and is currently subject to a final order of removal, he has otherwise been a model citizen,” the judge said. “He has no criminal history. He has paid his taxes. And he has worked diligently to provide for his family.”
He was released from the Hudson County Correctional facility in Kearny, New Jersey – where he was held for close to two months – Tuesday evening into the arms of his wife and children.
Villavicencio has been granted stay until he “exhausts” his rights to complete the process.
City and state officials were quick to react to the deliveryman’s release.
“The order to release Pablo Villavicencio from federal detention is a victory for New Yorkers and for basic human rights — but it shouldn’t be,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Mr. Villavicencio was held for 53 days, and that is 53 days too long — this never should have happened. There was absolutely no legitimate reason to lock up Mr. Villavicencio, and take him from his wife and children, and I am relieved that he will finally be reunited with his family.”
Councilmember Justin Brannan, who, alongside Borough President Eric Adams, was the first to protest Villavicencio’s detainment, shared similar sentiments.
“I am thankful that a federal judge agrees that taking a pizza delivery man off the streets does not make our country any safer,” he said, adding, “ICE’s actions in the past months under orders from President Trump’s administration constitute a moral crisis in our nation. It is a failed governmental endeavor that has carried out blatantly immoral and un-American actions against immigrants in the United States. It has broken families, traumatized children and left a historic stain on what our country stands for.
“We must continue to fight these injustices so that families like Pablo’s and people all over the world will know that the United States is still a beacon of hope,” Brannan said.