A federal judge has freed an illegal immigrant who was detained by immigration authorities while he was delivering pizza to an Army base in New York City last month.
Manhattan-based federal Judge Paul Crotty on Tuesday ordered Ecuadorian national Pablo Villavicencio to be released from a New Jersey lockup following nearly two months in immigration detention. He was reunited with his wife and children on Long Island later that night.
Villavicencio, 35, was arrested on June 1 while making a delivery to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. Immigration agents took him into custody after base guards ran his name as part of a routine background screening and discovered that he was an illegal immigrant who had been issued a final order of removal in 2010.
The arrest immediately generated outrage from immigration activists, who said it was an example of how the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration was sweeping up otherwise law-abiding people. Many noted that Villavicencio, a father of two U.S. citizen children, did not have a criminal record. (RELATED: Gov. Andrew Cuomo Pardons 7 Ex-Criminal Immigrants To Prevent Their Deportation)
Crotty echoed those arguments in his ruling and said Villavicencio’s release was necessary because his imminent deportation “is no longer reasonably foreseeable.”
“Although he stayed in the United States unlawfully and is currently subject to a final order of removal, he has otherwise been a model citizen,” Crotty wrote, according to the Associated Press.
“He has no criminal history,” the judge continued. “He has paid his taxes. And he has worked diligently to provide for his family.”
An immigration judge ordered Villavicencio’s deportation in 2010 after he overstayed a visa, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Villavicencio had previously agreed to leave the U.S. voluntarily without a deportation on his record but failed to do so, which prompted the final order of removal.
At the time of his arrest, Villavicencio had applied for a green card and was waiting on a decision from immigration officials, according to his wife, Sandra Chica. He should be allowed to await the outcome of the process outside of immigration detention, Crotty ruled.
“What’s the harm to the country and immigration policy if he’s allowed to finish the process that is clearly available to him?” he wrote, according to the New York Daily News.
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