Husband arrested for deportation after delivering pizza, kids find out from TV
On June 1st, Pablo Villavicencio was working at his job as a pizza deliveryman when he received an order from the Fort Hamilton military base. He'd delivered pizzas there multiple times before, and had always used his ID NYC (something that is available to all New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status) in order to gain access to the base.
This time, however, he was asked to provide a second form of identification. When he couldn't, a staff member there called ICE. Villavicencio was arrested immediately. His wife, Sandra Chica, was alerted about the situation, but she didn't know how to tell her two young daughters - aged two and three - that their father would not be coming home.
For days, Chica told her children that Villavicencio was simply away on a job, and that's why he hadn't been coming home at night. On Wednesday of this week, however, Chica was in a laundromat with her three-year-old, Luciana, when a story about Villavicencio came up on the news - and the little one realised immediately that her dad was in trouble.
"She started crying immediately like she was scared," Chica told Buzzfeed News. "This is going to affect her one way or another ... deep down she knows something is happening to her father."
Villavicencio is currently in ICE custody in Manhattan, and is expected to be deported to back to his native Ecuador. He has a pending green card application, and his wife and children are all US citizens - but none of that helps his case at all.
Chica is understandably outraged by what happened.
"This came to light because of an act of racism; he had gone to that military base numerous times with that ID. Why ask him these questions now?" she said. "I can't stay quiet, because of the desperation of my girls whose dad was just working when he was taken away.
"He wasn't doing anything. I'm willing to take this as far as I can go."
According to ICE spokesperson Rachael Yong Yow, the father-of-two was "granted voluntary departure" eight years ago. When he did not leave the states, however, "his voluntary departure order became a final order of removal, and he is an ICE fugitive."
When asked whether Villavicencio's arrest would affect his green card application, Yow stated, "I want to say it shouldn’t affect that, but that is a [US Citizenship and Immigration Services] question. I have no idea if it affects that. But I know on our end that isn’t one of those pending things that affects if they are removable."
It is still not clear whether his application has been invalidated by his detainment.
In an impassioned appeal to authorities, Chica said:
"We're asking that they at least give him an opportunity to continue his petition here in this country so he won't be separated from his daughters. From one moment to the next I was left with the responsibility of being the mom and dad without any answers for my daughters. My outlook right now is very dark. I'm really worried about my daughters."
In the meantime, a friend of the family set up a GoFundMe to help raise money for Chica and her daughters, who will be left without an income if Villavicencio is not released.
"Hi everyone [my] husband Pablo was arrested last friday while he was working," Chica wrote on the page. "He went to a militar[y] base in Brooklyn and they asked him ID because he didn’t have it they called ICE and they took him."
"We are alone in this country, [we] have two daughters and we take care of them. Now I'm by myself. I hope you can help us because it's really hard you never know what you can feel until the day that you have to live this [kind] of situation. ... I hope we are not one more family separated or one more number in the statistics."
Local politicians have now called for an investigation into the unusual arrest, as the restaurant manager at Villavicencio's workplace said that the military base had placed a number of orders from them before - even though they're 90 minutes away from Fort Hamilton.
To many, it appears that the pizza delivery was an elaborate ruse to lure the man away from his wife and family, and to take him while he was most vulnerable.
Whether or not he will be deported remains to be seen.