Left in limbo: Judge postpones undocumented delivery man’s deportation, but officials keep him from family while awaiting fate

Left in limbo: Judge postpones undocumented delivery man’s deportation, but officials keep him from family while awaiting fate
Photo by Paul Martinka

It’s a special delivery of bittersweet relief.

An undocumented immigrant with an active arrest warrant who Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detained while he delivered pizza to Fort Hamilton Army base on June 1 cannot be deported to his native Ecuador before a court hearing on July 20, a federal judge ruled on Saturday.

Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge), whose district includes the base, called the ruling a temporary victory for Pablo Villavicencio-Calderon and his family, but said he should be released from federal detention to his wife and two children, all of whom are citizens, until the July hearing.

“Because he’s got two kids under 10-years-old and he’s certainly not a flight risk, we’d love to reunite him with his family until the 20th of July,” Brannan said this week while appearing on Brooklyn Paper Radio. “Keeping him away from his family is not helpful and defeats the purpose here, so that’s sort of the next fight.”

Villavicencio-Calderon is currently being held at a correctional facility in New Jersey, according to the federal agency’s online detainee-locator system. He, his wife, and kids live on Long Island, the New York Times reported.

Villavicencio-Calderon’s lawyers on June 9 filed an emergency petition to postpone his deportation, and Justice Alison Nathan of New York’s Federal District Court temporarily granted a postponement that day, ruling that the Feds must file documents before the July 20 hearing explaining why the court should not further extend his deportation beyond that date, the Times reported.

The delivery man’s lawyers also filed a separate federal lawsuit, charging their client was a victim of racial profiling at the Army base and that officials violated his constitutional rights in detaining him, according to the Times.

A spokeswoman for the federal immigration agency said it did not have a comment on the court’s decision.

The Feds detained Villavicencio-Calderon while he made a delivery from his employer, Queens eatery Nonna Delia’s, to the Army base, because he lacked the proper military identification required for entry, according to a Fort Hamilton spokeswoman, who claimed that the delivery man signed a waiver authorizing a customary background check in order to receive a day pass granting him access.

Personnel running the background check discovered Villavicencio-Calderon’s active warrant on file from the immigration agency — which does not issue warrants for criminal charges — prompting them to turn him over to the Feds as required by protocol, the base’s spokeswoman said.

But the delivery man later claimed he never signed the document authorizing the background check, the New York Post reported. And Villavicencio-Calderon’s wife claimed he showed the same city-issued ID NYC card that he used to enter the base for previous deliveries, saying he lacked a driver’s license — which she called a “mistake” — and that he applied for a green card in February.

By press time, the base’s spokeswoman did not reply to a request for a copy of the waiver, a request for comment on the June 9 ruling, or a request for information on what guards were on duty the day Villavicencio-Calderon was detained.

In March 2010, an immigration judge ordered Villavicencio-Calderon to leave the country, and officials later classified the immigrant as a “fugitive” when he failed to leave by July of that year.

Following the delivery man’s detainment, Democratic state and local officials including Gov. Cuomo, Mayor DeBlasio, and Sunset Park Councilman Carlos Menchaca came to his defense, in addition to Brannan, who along with Villavicencio-Calderon’s lawyers sent a letter to the director of the federal immigration agency’s New York office, arguing that the father should be released because he is a taxpayer with no criminal record and was working to support his family.

“Mr. Villavicencio, who has made many deliveries to the same base without incident, was torn away from his wife and two daughters while doing his job,” Brannan wrote. “His detention is cruel and unjust.”

And workers at some area eateries told this newspaper that their non-white colleagues routinely feel targeted by guards at the Army base, which employees from two separate Bay Ridge pizzerias said they would refuse to deliver to in the future because of its identification requirements.

By press time, the base’s spokeswoman did not respond to repeated requests for comment on protocol for receiving deliveries, how that has changed over time, and whether or not guards receive anti-bias training.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcsh[email protected]nglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.