Pablo Villavicencio was arrested and detained last Friday while making a routine delivery to a pizza to a U.S. Army base in Brooklyn, as NPR reports. Local elected officials are attempting to stop the deportation of Villavicencio.
Villavicencio is an Ecuadorian immigrant who had a pending green card application and is married to a U.S. citizen, Sandra Chica, with two young daughters. When he arrived at Fort Hamilton Base to deliver pizza, as he had done several times before, he showed his New York identification card to the guard like always. The base commented that Villavicencio didn’t have a “valid Department of Defense identification,” so he was asked to obtain a visitors pass. The base also stated that he ended up “signing a waiver permitting a background check.” What happened in between, or why this delivery went differently than the others, is unclear, but in the end the background check revealed an active warrant for his deportation. The military police called immigration agents and Villavicencio was arrested.
ICE told CNN that a judge ordered Villavicencio’s deportation in 2010 after he overstayed his visa. The order wasn’t an official deportation order, at first. Villavicencio didn’t leave after the order and he was issued a final order of removal, but still remained in the country. The agency began referring to him as an “ICE fugitive.” He applied for a green card in February and was still waiting for a response when he was detained last week.
This incident sent fear throughout the local immigrant community, whose members rely on New York identification cards. These cards are called IDNYC cards and were introduced in New York in 2015 as “official proof of identification that could be obtained with limited documentation—making it accessible to the nearly half million city residents without legal immigration status.” A cardholder’s personal information cannot be disclosed to federal law enforcement unless the city’s human resources administration gives permission. These cards have allowed immigrants the ability to report a crime, check out a library book, lease an apartment and more without fearing deportation. Brooklyn Burrough President Eric Adams stated, “They (undocumented immigrants) were told with this ID, they would have some form of liberty in this city without being arrested. We are setting a dangerous precedent with what we saw here.”
Local elected officials are speaking out on Villavicencio’s behalf, such as New York City Councilman Justin Brannan, who stated, “Pablo never had a problem entering the base before, he had a NYC ID and never had an issue before. Why was Pablo singled out? What was different this time? Is our city, state and nation more safe today because Pablo is off the streets?”
Villavicencio’s wife also spoke out saying, “He was doing his job, he wasn’t committing a crime. He wasn’t doing anything illegal other than working to support his two daughters.” Villavicencio remains in ICE custody pending deportation.