NEW YORK — A New York City man is facing deportation after he delivered pizza to an Army base in Brooklyn and leaders in the borough are now doing all they can to keep him with his family.
“They treated me like a criminal. I did not commit a crime,” Pablo Villavicencio said in Spanish.
He spoke to WPIX from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in New Jersey.
“My daughters need me,” he said. “My wife needs me.”
His family said Villavicencio could be deported as early as next week.
Villavicencio said he was delivering pizza, as he has done countless times before, to the Fort Hamilton Army Base on June 1. He said he showed his New York State identification card at the security gate and was allowed inside.
But when he reached the delivery address, he said, he was confronted by another officer and asked to show another form of identification which he did not have.
Villavicencio said he was detained by military officers, one of whom called ICE. Since then, he has not seen his family.
“In one day your life changed,” his wife Sandra Chica said. “Now, I’m alone with two kids.”
Though he has no criminal record, Villavicencio came to the U.S. illegally from Ecuador in 2008.
In 2010, according to ICE, he was granted voluntary departure. He was ordered to leave the country by July of that year. He never did. His wife said they filed a petition challenging that order.
The couple married five years ago and this year Villavicencio applied for his green card.
“Every time he called, he’s just crying asking me about them,” his wife said. “He’s very worried what’s going to happen with us.”
WPIX reached out to the U.S. Army and the Fort Hamilton Army Base directly but did receive a response.
In a statement to WPIX, ICE said:
“Pablo Villavicencio-Calderon is an illegally present citizen and national of Ecuador. In March 2010, he was granted voluntary departure by an immigration judge, but failed to depart by July 2010 as ordered. As such, his voluntary departure order became a final order of removal and is an ICE fugitive. On June 1, Villavicencio-Calderon was detained by military police officers and turned over to ICE. He remains in ICE custody pending removal.”
Local leaders said Villavicencio’s detainment doesn’t make sense.
“Tell me how this is American. Tell me how taking Pablo off the street makes our nation safer. I’m listening,” Councilman Justin Brannan said.
Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams echoed that sentiment.
Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, called it “absolutely disgusting.”
“Immigrant New Yorkers like Pablo Villavicencio provide for their families by working hard and making sacrifices, they shouldn’t be ripped from their communities and their crying children for pursuing the ever dimmer American dream,” he said.
State Sen. Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn) commended the authorities who took Villavicencio into custody.
“As a result of military police action at the Fort Hamilton Army Base, in accordance with the Department of Army Access Control standards for all visitors, an individual with a warrant was identified upon seeking entrance to the Fort,” said Golden, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs.
“Consequently, the proper authorities were alerted and the individual was taken into custody. I would expect nothing less from the Fort Hamilton Commander and its dedicated personnel who have committed their lives to protecting our citizens and country.”
A rally is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at John Paul Jones Park in Bay Ridge. The group says they “demand answers. We demand ICE out of Bay Ridge. We demand ICE out of NYC. We demand an end to all deporations (sic).”
A GoFundMe has been set up for the family.