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Immigrant Detained While Delivering Pizza to Army Base in NYC Arrested for Criminal Mischief

A judge said in July that Pablo Villavicencio could remain in the United States while he exhausted his right to complete an effort to gain legal status

What to Know

  • An immigrant arrested after delivering pizza to an Army base, and later ordered released, has been arrested again
  • A federal judge ordered Pablo Villavicencio's release last July after his case became a flashpoint in the national immigration debate
  • The judge said the release was necessary because his imminent removal from the United States was no longer reasonably foreseeable

The Ecuadorean immigrant who was held for deportation after he delivered pizza to a Brooklyn Army installation, before a judge ordered his immediate release last July, has been arrested after allegedly assaulting his wife and keeping her from calling police.

Pablo Villavicencio, whose arrest became a national cause and a flashpoint for the immigration debate, was taken into custody early Monday on a fourth-degree misdemeanor and was still in a Nassau County detention center as of mid-morning, sources said.  

According to court documents, Villavicencio allegedly pushed his wife against a wall and slapped her body after an argument, and then purportedly took her phone so she could not call for help. (The criminal mischief charge relates to the alleged taking of the phone, interfering with her ability to call police.)

His lawyers did not immediately have a statement on his arrest. ICE officials said Villavicencio will not be taken into custody while he has pending immigration applications. 

Villavicencio was arrested on June 1 while making a delivery to the garrison in Fort Hamilton. When he arrived at Fort Hamilton, 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.

But he walked out of an immigration detention center in New Jersey last July and was greeted with hugs from his jubilant wife and two young daughters.

Hours earlier, U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty wrote of Villavicencio, "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 said Villavicencio could remain in the United States while he exhausted his right to try to gain legal status. Villavicencio applied to stay in the U.S. after he married a U.S. citizen, with whom he has two young girls, ages 2 and 4.

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 judge ruled after putting 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 the 35-year-old Villavicencio.

"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."

The case attracted widespread attention amid a crackdown by the administration of President Donald Trump on illegal immigration. Trump, a Republican, has said his policies are designed to keep the country safe.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said at the time that the federal government had "cruelly" kept Villavicencio from his wife, Sandra Chica, and two daughters "for no legitimate reason."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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