Immigration advocates, with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and detained delivery worker Pablo Villavicencio’s wife, Sandra Chica, rallied Monday at City Hall for Villavicencio a day before a federal hearing that will determine the Ecuadorean immigrant’s fate in the United States.
Villavicencio, who was detained on June 1 while delivering pizza to Fort Hamilton Army Base, has been in detention for 52 days. His attorneys and immigrant rights advocates demanded his release so Villavicencio doesn’t have to spend any additional days in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention.
“Pablo’s absence has brought us significant hardship,” Chica said, adding that her husband has missed Father’s Day and his older daughter’s birthday while in detention. “It’s not easy to become a single mom in one day.”
Calling the time without her husband a “nightmare,” Chica said she hoped the ordeal would end Tuesday, when a federal hearing on Villavicencio’s case will be held at 11 a.m. at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse at 500 Pearl St. Advocates plan to rally outside the courthouse in support of Villavicencio starting at 9 a.m., according to Raymond Queliz, a union delegate from the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys-UAW Local 2325.
The fight to keep Villavicencio in the country and reunite him with his wife and two daughters has been championed by attorneys from the Legal Aid Society, who succeeded in obtaining an emergency stay on his removal on June 9.
Villavicencio, however, remains in custody at a correctional facility in Hudson County, New Jersey. On June 18, his attorneys filed a formal release request with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations branch, citing Villavicencio’s lack of criminal record and an outpouring of support from community advocates following his detention. He has not been released back to his family.
Villavicencio, who lives in Hempstead, entered the country without inspection more than 10 years ago, was denied asylum and was granted a voluntary order of departure, which he did not fulfill, said his attorney, Jennifer Williams. Since then, he has married Chica, who is an American citizen, and applied for his green card, she added.
On June 1, Villavicencio had consented to a background check at the military base, which revealed an active ICE warrant on file, Cathy SantoPietro, a spokeswoman for Fort Hamilton, said in an email.
Calling Villavicencio a “hard-working family man” who was “minding his own business,” Williams criticized the push to deport him.
“The Villavicencio family has done nothing wrong here,” Williams said. “They’re hardworking, they pay their taxes, they raise a family and most importantly, follow the pursuit of actively legalizing their status for the sake of family unity.”
The government has created a path for individuals like Villavicencio to “come out of the shadows and pursue legal residency,” but at the same time are the ones saying, “No, you don’t get to ride this train,” Williams said, adding that she is “forever hopeful” for Villavicencio’s release.
While Villavicencio’s emergency stay expired on July 20, his attorneys will be arguing for more time so he can adjust his legal status, Williams said.
Chica, who said she visits Villavicencio every Saturday at the Hudson County jail and talks to him on the phone two to three times per day, added that her husband is positive about his case but also afraid to be taken away from his daughters.
Calling it an issue of morality, Speaker Corey Johnson called President Donald Trump’s immigration policies “cruel, inhumane and misguided."
“It is un-American and does nothing to make our country safer,” he said of the family’s separation.