An Ecuadorean immigrant who was held for deportation after delivering pizza to a Brooklyn Army installation is at home on Long Island after an emotional reunion with his family.
Sandra Chica told Newsday on Wednesday there were tears and kisses when her husband, Pablo Villavicencio, walked through their door late Tuesday.
Villavicencio was arrested June 1 while making a delivery to the garrison in Fort Hamilton. When he arrived, guards requested identification, and he produced a city identification card. A background check showed he had been ordered to leave the United States in 2010 but stayed.
U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty said Tuesday that Villavicencio, who was being held at a New Jersey lockup, can remain in the United States while he exhausts his right to try to gain legal status.
“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,” the judge wrote.
Villavicencio applied to stay in the U.S. after he married a U.S. citizen, with whom he has two young girls.
The judge cited those children and said they are U.S. citizens.
“He has no criminal history,” the judge wrote. “He has paid his taxes. And he has worked diligently to provide for his family.”
The U.S. government, which had wanted the case moved from New York to New Jersey, did not immediately comment on the judge’s action.
Adriene Holder, the attorney-in-charge of the civil practice at the Legal Aid Society, said the rule of “law, humanity and morality” prevailed and the Villavicencio family has “finally received a crucial measure of relief from their 53-day nightmare.”
“This decision should serve as a rebuke against the Trump Administration and its merciless crusade to tear families apart,” Holder said in a statement.
The judge ruled after hearing arguments earlier Tuesday, when he put a government lawyer on the spot over the effort by immigration authorities to enforce a 2010 deportation order. He questioned the need to detain and quickly deport Villavicencio, who’s 35 years old.
“Well, the powerful are doing what they want, and the poor are suffering what they must,” the judge said after hearing Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Cordaro defend the government’s actions.
“I mean, is there any concept of justice here, or are we just doing this because we want to?” the judge asked. “Why do we want to enforce the order? It makes no difference in terms of the larger issues facing the country.”
Cordaro said Villavicencio would still be able to pursue his application to become a legal U.S. resident if he were deported.
The case has attracted widespread attention amid a crackdown by the administration of President Donald Trump on illegal immigration. Trump has said his policies are designed to keep the country safe.