Photo via Google Maps
The main gate of the Fort Hamilton army base in Brooklyn.

Members of Congress representing Queens are attempting to get a College Point pizzeria deliveryman released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody and learn more about why he was detained.

The group of 14 representatives — including Congress members Grace Meng, Nydia Velazquez, Joseph Crowley, Hakeem Jeffries, Gregory Meeks, Thomas Suozzi, Carolyn Maloney and Senator Charles Schumer — sent letters on June 22 to ICE and the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn in relation to the arrest of Pablo Villavicencio.

A resident of Hempstead, Long Island, Villavicencio delivered a pizza to Fort Hamilton earlier this month while working for Nonna Delia’s pizzeria despite not having a driver’s license. He presented his IDNYC card to military police, who then performed a background check and found that Villavicencio had an open order of deportation dating back to 2010.

In the letter to ICE official Tom Decker, director of the New York field office, the Congress members pointed out that Villavicencio actually had a pending appeal through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services department related to his deportation case, but he was detained by ICE anyway.

“Living in the United States, he has dedicated his life to his family — his daughters and wife — whom are all U.S. citizens,” the letter said. “Mr. Villavicencio’s friends, family and the greater community at large request that he be granted release from custody as he exercises the right to exhaust all his legal options before being removed from the United States.”

The Congress members also announced their full support of Villavicencio’s appeal.

The letter to Colonel Peter Sicoli, commanding officer of the Fort Hamilton Army Base, was much more detailed. The Congress members expressed concern over the “questionable” circumstances surrounding Villavicencio’s detention at the base and requested an explanation of the base’s policies.

“The actions taken by the post generate pressing questions about Fort Hamilton’s current policies, which are critical to maintaining public trust and safety,” wrote the lawmakers. “Furthermore, it can be argued that the practices employed in this particular scenario may fall outside the immediate responsibilities of Fort Hamilton’s guards.”

The lawmakers explained that while the Department of Defense policy requires anyone without an official identification to go through a background check, it is unclear why that policy would apply to someone who is not at the post for official business. The background check was also performed despite a fellow officer pleading that it should not be conducted, according to the letter.

The letter even specifically asked about Fort Hamilton’s policies toward deliveries, if drivers can decline the background check if they choose to not enter the facility, whether or not they were made aware of that right and if any other drivers have been detained in similar situations. It also referred to a New York Times report in which Villavicencio’s attorney suggested that he did not consent to the background check.

The Congress members requested a formal response from Col. Sicoli within 15 calendar days.

Villavicencio’s wife and two young daughters are all U.S. citizens, and he has no criminal record.


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