By ARIEL HERNANDEZ
The Corona man who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents during a pizza delivery in June was ordered to be released from custody by a federal judge on Tuesday.
Pablo Villavicencio, 35, was detained on June 1 while delivering a pizza in Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. Officers at the scene of the delivery did a background check that found that Villavicencio had been ordered to be removed from the country and sent back to Ecuador in 2010.
Villavicencio, who has no criminal record, is married and the father of two children who are United States citizens.
Although the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted Villavicencio one month’s stay until July 20, he was held in ICE’s custody at the Hudson County Correctional Facility in New Jersey until his case was heard in federal court.
On Monday, the day before Villavicencio’s hearing, Make the Road New York, the Legal Aid Society, elected officials from across the city and immigrants rallied outside City Hall to demand that Villavicencio be allowed to return home.
“I want my father not to be over there anymore,” said Villavicencio’s daughter Luciana, 4, at the rally. “I want him to be home every day. I want him to be in my home. When we go to visit, he cries a lot. Tomorrow, I ask that he comes now.”
Manhattan Federal Judge Paul Crotty announced at approximately 9 p.m. on Tuesday—following the hearing earlier that morning—that Villavicencio had the right to try to obtain a waiver to overturn the 2010 order of removal.
“The court holds that he indeed does have a right to complete the process of obtaining a provisional waiver and that the government’s deportation of petitioner would contravene that right,” said Crotty. “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. He has no criminal history. He has paid his taxes and he worked diligently to provide for his family.”
After hearing the news, Villavicencio was overcome with emotion as he was reunited with his wife and two children.
“I am so happy to be with my wife and my children,” said Villavicencio, kissing his daughters on their heads.
Villavicencio thanked his lawyers, the judge, his wife, the organizations that supported him and the media for publicizing his case.
“We are ecstatic that Pablo, Sandra and their daughters have finally won justice and will be back together again,” said Javier Guzmán, an organizer for Make the Road New York. “We have stood with this family since Pablo was detained, and we will continue to stand with them always. Pablo winning his freedom tonight is a testament to the power of immigrant families and their allies fighting back against a hateful administration trying to tear them apart. Thousands of New Yorkers—immigrants and non-immigrants alike—have stood up for this family, and together we will continue to resist the attacks from the Trump administration and ICE. We know today and every day that our community is here to stay.”
Villavicencio’s case sparked outrage, and city elected officials have taken to social media to reiterate that New York City is a sanctuary jurisdiction where immigrants such as Villavicieno, who have no criminal history, should be welcomed and granted rights.
“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 Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “Mr. Villavicencio was held for 53 days and that is 53 days too long. This never should have happened.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) said he hopes that Villavicencio’s release “sends a clear message to President Donald Trump.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x 44, email@example.com or @reporter_ariel.