Pablo Villavicencio family

Sophia Hall/WCBS 880

Pizza Deliveryman Back Home After Being Released From ICE Custody

July 25, 2018 - 10:52 am

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (WCBS 880) -- A family reunited was rejoicing Wednesday after a judge freed a pizza deliveryman who was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty issued a writ of habeas corpus for Pablo Villavicencio, placing a stay on his deportation.

As WCBS 880’s Steve Burns reported, Crotty also ordered Villavicencio’s immediate release, saying his deportation could not be reasonably foreseen.

Crotty asked some tough questions of the federal government at a hearing, inquiring if it had any concept in mind for justice for Villavicencio. The judge said in his ruling that Villavicencio can stay in the U.S. as he exhausts his right to become a citizen.

Villavicencio, a legal citizen of Ecuador, was detained by ICE while trying to deliver a pizza at Fort Hamilton last month.

A routine background check revealed that Villavicencio did not obey an order eight years ago to leave the country, but he later married a U.S. citizen and has applied to stay. They have two young daughters, Luciana and Antonia.

Villavicencio's wife, Sandra Chica, spoke to WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall and explained the entire ordeal had been a nightmare for their family.

He say that he was very sad, that all the time he was thinking that he was going to be deported and we we’re going to be separated,” said Chica. “The only thing that he wanted is to stay with them.”

Finally back home in Hempstead, Villavicencio said he wishes to spend time with his family.

He says he is willing and ready to return to work, but doesn’t know if he would legally be allowed to work.

In a statement Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed disappointment that Villavicencio had ever been held at all.

"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,” Cuomo said in the statement. “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.”

Cuomo went on to accuse the federal government of continuing an “un-American assault” on immigrants, and said New York will stand with immigrant communities to uphold the values seen on the inscription of the Statue of Liberty.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Villavicencio’s release amounted to “finally – some good news,” but also expressed disgust at the whole ordeal.

“What happened to Pablo was inhumane,” he said in a statement. “This decision rights an incredible wrong, and sends a clear message to President Trump that the rule of law still applies.”

Villavicencio said he is ready to go back to work, though he does not know if he can do so legally and is checking with his attorneys. So he spent the day with his family catching up, and his wife said she would make his favorite fish dinner.

A hearing is set at the end of the month as Villavicencio pursues permanent residency. In February,  his wife helped him submit a petition to the government to recognize him as her spouse – the first step in getting a green card – but before U.S. immigration services could process the form, Villavicencio was arrested.