Sandra Chica

Peter Haskell/WCBS 880

Judge Orders Pizza Deliveryman To Be Immediately Freed After Being Held By ICE

July 24, 2018 - 10:15 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- A judge on Tuesday ordered that a pizza deliveryman who was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Fort Hamilton must be immediately freed.

As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty issued a writ of habeas corpus for Villavicencio, placing a stay on his deportation.

Crotty, who is the senior federal judge in the city, ruled that Villavicencio should be freed because his deportation cannot be reasonably foreseen.

Earlier, Crotty had seemed skeptical of the government’s arguments for detaining Pablo Villavicencio.

Villavicencio has applied to be a permanent resident alien, prompting the judge to ask,” What’s the harm to the country if he’s allowed to visit the process that is clearly available to him?”

“I think that was reassuring, and showed that the judge saw what was happening. It doesn’t sort of indicate which way he was going to rule, but… at least he judge saw that a person that’s not a danger and not a flight risk has now been detained for 52 days,” said Villavicencio’s legal aid attorney, Gregory Copeland.

Copeland also said the government had trouble answering the judge’s questions.

The government had asked the case to be moved to federal court in New Jersey, because that is where Villavicencio is being held. Crotty did not say if he would be ruling on the merits of the case or switch it all to New Jersey.

On Monday, Villavicencio’s supporters had held a news conference at City Hall callng for his release.

Villavicencio’s wife, Sandra Chica, said she hopes a federal judge will release him for a federal detention center in Hudson County, New Jersey, where she and her children have been able to visit.

“We see him every Saturday. We go to the jail. The visit is only 30 minutes,” Chica explained.

Villavicencio, an Ecuadorean immigrant, was arrested on June 1 when he tried to make a pizza delivery to the Fort Hamilton garrison in Brooklyn. A routine background check revealed there was a warrant for his arrest for immigration law violations.

A federal judge ealrier had temporarily blocked the Villavicencio's deportation, but he had remained in ICE custody.

The hearing even attracted the attention of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called on the federal government “to do the right thing and let Mr. Villavicencio return to his family.”

“ICE's arrest of Mr. Villavicencio, which raised serious concerns of ethnic profiling, was a disgraceful affront to our New York values,” Cuomo said, “and it is unconscionable that the federal government has continued to keep him locked up.”

Legal Aid attorney Jennifer Williams had also pointed out that Villavicencio, though undocumented and having failed to self-deport as he had agreed to do, was openly pursuing a prescribed path to legal status when he was arrested.