The family and attorneys of an Ecuadorean pizza shop worker who was arrested while trying to make a delivery submitted a formal request to immigration officials Monday demanding his immediate release.
Attorneys from the Legal Aid Society, accompanied by Pablo Villavicencio's wife and two small daughters, said at a news conference that they filed the petition Monday.
The request argues that Villavicencio's detention causes significant emotional and financial hardship to his U.S. citizen wife and daughters and that the immigrant has no criminal history and is not a threat to public safety.
Jennifer Williams, deputy attorney in charge of the immigration law unit at the Legal Aid Society, also said that her client's detention is "unwarranted" until the circumstances surrounding his arrest are clear.
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The 35-year-old married father of two young girls was arrested June 1 while making a delivery to the garrison in Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. A routine background check revealed there was a warrant for his arrest for immigration law violations.
A federal judge temporarily blocked the deportation of Villavicencio, but he will remain in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in New Jersey until his case goes to court.
On Monday, Villavicencio's wife, Sandra Chica, stood next to his two daughters, ages 2 and 3, and pleaded for the release of her husband.
"Let him go back to his daughters and me," she said in front of the cameras. "Every day my daughters ask, 'Why is daddy not with us?' I demand ICE to do the right thing."
The 3-year-old girl, Luciana Villavicencio, spoke at the news conference, saying: "Daddy, I hope that angels take care of you and that you are well and that nothing bad happens over there."
An ICE spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
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New York City Council speaker Corey Johnson described Villavicencio's arrest as a "grave injustice."
"I am outraged, outraged, that the reason Luciana and Antonia are feeling this loss is because of our government," Johnson said. "As an American, my heart breaks."
An ICE spokesperson has said that in March 2010 Villavicencio was granted voluntary departure by an immigration judge but failed to depart by July, as ordered.