Federal judge releases College Point pizzeria’s delivery driver from ICE custody

Sandra Chica, wife of Pablo Villavicencio, speaks at a City Hall press conference on July 23, just a day before her husband had been freed from ICE custody.
Photo via Twitter/@MakeTheRoadNY

Having spent more than 50 days in ICE custody, a delivery driver for a College Point pizzeria seized after bringing food to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn has been released, officials announced Tuesday.

With help from the Legal Aid Society and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Pablo Villavicencio, 35, was granted an extending a stay of deportation by a federal judge, which will allow him time to secure valid immigration status.

“The rule of law, humanity and morality prevailed tonight with the Court’s order releasing Pablo back to his family and community,” said Adriene Holder, Attorney-In-Charge of the Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “This decision should serve as a rebuke against the Trump Administration and its merciless crusade to tear families apart. Today is also an affirmation that the Courts can still serve as a check on the Executive when it breaks with our laws and principles. The Villavicencio family has finally received a crucial measure of relief from their 53-day nightmare and we will continue to fight alongside them to protect their right to remain in the community they call home.”

Villavicencio, who resides in Hempstead, Long Island, was arrested and detained after he delivered a catering order to Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn on June 1. At the time of the delivery, Villavicencio reportedly presented his IDNYC card to the military police on duty at the base upon his arrival and was told by military police that he needed a driver’s license, which he didn’t have.

An on-site background check found the Villavicencio had an open order of deportation dating back to 2010. Military police then detained Villavicencio and called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, who took him into custody.

Villavicencio had been working for Nonna Delia’s brick-oven pizzeria in College Point for the past eight months. His wife and two young daughters are U.S. citizens, and Villavicencio had no criminal record.

Many Queens politicians penned letters to ICE to find out more information about why Villavicencio was detained. The letters pointed out that Villavicencio had a pending appeal regarding his deportation through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services department, but he was detained anyway.

In mid-June, Villavicencio was granted a temporary restraining order staying his deportation pending a hearing on the entirety of his case.