Imagine you’re Pablo Villavicencio-Calderon. You live with your wife and two young daughters in Hempstead, and you work at a pizza place in Queens. Last week, you set out for a routine delivery to the Fort Hamilton Army base in Brooklyn. Suddenly, the New York City ID card that seems to have been good enough before wasn’t good enough this time, and you went through a base background check.
That was the beginning of the deportation case against Villavicencio-Calderon — a 35-year-old Ecuadorean national here illegally — who had reportedly delivered to the base before. The subsequent detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is an example of the arbitrary nature of our nation’s immigration policy. He has no criminal record, according to ICE, but the check found that in 2010 Villavicencio-Calderon failed to comply with a voluntary deportation order. His wife and children are citizens, he has applied for a green card, and he has paid taxes, according to local officials who spoke with his wife.
His case underscores the human toll of a broken immigration system. For years, Congress has failed to fix it, while families like the deliveryman’s suffer. Deporting a working father should not be the priority of ICE, and its actions signal that under President Donald Trump, law-abiding immigrants who have established roots in the community are not worthy of leniency. Meantime, no congressional grand bargain on immigration is in sight.
Villavicencio-Calderon’s predicament screams for a more sane immigration system and relief for millions here without authorization and living productive lives. That’s the only solution if you’re troubled that a man like Villavicencio-Calderon sits in a detention center, and that another family is arbitrarily torn apart.