The undocumented pizza delivery man who was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) two months ago received good news this week. Pablo Villavicencio was released from government custody on Tuesday following a federal judge's order to pause his deportation proceedings. A video of Villavicencio being reunited with his wife and two daughters tweeted by The New York Post's Joe Marino shows the family's emotional response to seeing Villavicencio out of detention.
Villavicencio was arrested while delivering a pizza to the Fort Hamilton Army base in Brooklyn, New York. The base claimed in a statement to CNN that Villavicencio didn't have the proper identification to enter, so he was asked to get a daily visitor pass. This reportedly resulted in him signing a waiver that allowed a background check. The military police called ICE after the background check showed that Villavicencio had an active warrant for his deportation.
Judge Paul Crotty described Villavicencio as a "model citizen" and granted him a stay of deportation while he moves through the process to obtain the necessary legal documentation to stay in the U.S. Other than coming to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant in 2008, Villavicencio has no criminal record. “He has paid his taxes. And he has worked diligently to provide for his family," Crotty wrote in Tuesday's ruling.
Villavicencio had been held in the Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny, New Jersey since June 1. He's married to a United States citizen and began the process to obtain a green card in February, according to The New York Times.
"Thank you for everything. I'm so happy," he told reporters after he was released. According to CNN's translation, he added in Spanish: "I love this country. I love this country because it gave me this family. [It] gave me my daughters, but I do not share the intolerance and disrespect of the current government."
Although Villavicencio's immigration battle isn't completely over, immigration activists praised the judges decision to release Villavicencio from detention.
“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, an attorney in the civil practice division at The Legal Aid Society, in a statement posted online on Tuesday. “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."
Holder also assured the Villavicencio family that The Legal Aid Society will continue fighting to ensure that the father of two isn't deported back to Ecuador: "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.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who's been a vocal opponent of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, similarly voiced his support for Villavicencio on Tuesday.
"The order to release Pablo Villavicencio from federal detention is a victory for New Yorkers and for basic human rights — but it shouldn't be. Mr. Villavicencio was held for 53 days, and that is 53 days too long — this never should have happened," he tweeted on Tuesday. In an additional tweet, he added: "A true New Yorker. Welcome home, Pablo."
Crotty's decision followed a previous order granting Villavicencio an emergency stay on his deportation order. He's now free to continue his petition for a green card that would allow him to permanently stay in the United States with his wife and daughters.