A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the immediate release of a New York City man who was delivering Italian food to a military base back in June when he was arrested for being undocumented, marking the end of nearly two months in detention.
As the New York Post originally reported, Pablo Villavicencio, a native of Ecuador who lives in Long Island with his wife and kids, was making a routine delivery to an Army base in the Fort Hamilton section of Brooklyn on June 1. Villavicencio told the paper he’d made deliveries there before without incident and showed his IDNYC card, issued by the city. But once he’d entered the base, another officer demanded he show another form of identification and pressed him about why he couldn’t produce a Social Security card. That officer eventually called NYPD on Villavicencio. The police turned up “an active [ICE] warrant,” a Fort Hamilton spokeswoman told the Post, which dated back to him failing to act on a voluntary departure order in 2010.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty questioned why the government tried to deport someone he called a “model citizen” who was in the process of applying for permanent residency and had no criminal record.
“I mean, is there any concept of justice here or are we just doing this because we want to?” Crotty rightfully pointed out during Villavicencio’s hearing on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. “Why do we want to enforce the order? It makes no difference in terms of the larger issues facing the country.”
Villavicencio is married to an American citizen, has two children who were born in the U.S., and was in the middle of seeking legal status at the time of his arrest. His marriage allowed him to submit a “petition for alien relative” in February, the first step to seeking a green card.
Judge Crotty’s decision enables Villavicencio to continue pursuing his permanent residency and stops his deportation. Deporting him now would violate his rights under the Fifth Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act, the judge ruled, as he is in the middle of the petition process.
Villavicencio returned to his family on Tuesday, after 53 days in detention at the Hudson County Correctional Facility.
“I’m very happy to be free,” he told Telemundo in Spanish after his release. “I’m happy to be reunited with my wife and children.”