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Deliveryman Pablo Villavicencio faces deportation after dropping off pizza at Fort Hamilton

Villavicencio, an undocumented immigrant who had applied for a green card, is being held at a facility in New Jersey, according to City Councilman Justin Brannan.

Councilman Justin Brannan, left, walks with the family

Councilman Justin Brannan, left, walks with the family of Pablo Villavicencio and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, back, on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. Villavicencio was detained while delivering food to Fort Hamilton Army base, then subsequently turned over to ICE. Photo Credit: Councilman Justin Brannan’s Office

Seven people were taken into custody in Bay Ridge Wednesday during a protest and march against the detention of a deliveryman by federal immigration officers at Fort Hamilton last week.

Pablo Villavicencio, an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador who had applied for a green card, was detained while delivering pizza to military personnel on June 1, City Councilman Justin Brannan said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

“We are told these soldiers gladly took the pizza from Pablo before detaining him and turning him over to ICE,” Brannan said. “Is our city, state and nation any safer today because Pablo is off the street? ... This is absolutely ridiculous. We are tearing families apart, for what?”

Outraged over the incident, dozens of people chanting “no hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here” later marched from Fort Hamilton down Fifth Avenue, where some protesters stood in the road between 86th and 87th streets and blocked traffic until they were arrested. Seven people were issued criminal court summonses for criminal conduct, police said.

Villavicencio had gone to the military base before with no issues, according to Brannan. When asked for identification, he showed his IDNYC card, which is not contingent on immigration status.

Brannan said Villavicencio, who has two young daughters, is being held at a facility in New Jersey and faces the possibility of deportation.

“It’s cruel that they’re going to separate my daughters from him,” his wife, Sandra Chica, said during the afternoon news conference.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed Thursday to "fight this outrageous affront" to Villavicencio and offered him free legal representation. 

"New York stands ready to provide Mr. Villavicencio and his family with free legal representation and services though the Liberty Defense Project... In the face of the federal government's assault on immigrants, we will protect our values and fight for the rights of all New Yorkers."

Before Wednesday's march, protesters had gathered outside Fort Hamilton around 6 p.m., holding signs that read, “Free Pablo” and “No mas deportaciones,” which translates to “No more deportations.” Pizza boxes sat on the ground nearby with the words “pizza not persecution” and “free Pablo now” written on them.

Standing among the crowd was Kate Barnhart, 42, who said Villavicencio was trying to be a “constructive member of society” when he was detained.

“I think it’s outrageous that someone could be doing his job and be subjected to being reported to ICE and now facing deportation,” she said.

Barnhart, a 21-year resident of Bay Ridge, pointed to the neighborhood’s rich immigrant history while denouncing the soldiers’ actions.

“We have all kinds of people in this city and everybody needs to be able to feel safe and be able to do their job,” she said.

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca said Chica did not attend the evening rally outside Fort Hamilton because she was too overwhelmed.

“We know her story and this is happening over and over again,” he said, adding that officials are working to ensure she has legal representation and access to resources.

Cathy SantoPietro, a spokeswoman for Fort Hamilton, said in an email that Villavicencio signed a waiver allowing a background check when he went to obtain a day pass to the base.

She said, “an active Immigration and Customs Enforcement warrant was discovered on file. This prompted the Department of Emergency Services personnel to contact the proper authorities ... and released to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“DOD installation commanders are authorized to take reasonably necessary and lawful measures to maintain law and order and protect installation personnel and property,” she added. “This enables the Fort Hamilton Commander to enforce a safe and secure working environment suitable for all.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called the detention “unimaginable.”

“It was all right to take his pizza but it was also all right for them to put him in prison — not in America, not in New York and not in Brooklyn,” he said during the afternoon news conference with Brannan and Chica.

Protesters outside Fort Hamilton were also critical of the affects President Donald Trump’s immigration policies are having on New York City residents.

“I am opposed to the behavior of the Trump administration and our immigration officials under his leadership,” said Bay Ridge resident Sandi Stratton-Gonzalez, 64. “I’m tired of dehumanizing policies happening on my watch.”


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