Imagine you’re Pablo Villavicencio-Calderon.
You live with your wife and two young daughters on Long Island, and you work at a pizza place in College Point, Queens. Last week, you set out for a routine delivery to the Fort Hamilton Army base in Brooklyn. Suddenly, the New York City ID card that seems to have been good enough before wasn’t good enough this time, and you went through a base background check to do your job.
That was the beginning of the deportation case against Villavicencio-Calderon — a 35-year-old Ecuadorean national here illegally — who had reportedly delivered Italian food to the base before.
The subsequent detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is an example of the arbitrary nature of our nation’s immigration policy. He has no criminal record, according to ICE, but the check found that in 2010 Villavicencio-Calderon failed to comply with a voluntary deportation order. His wife and children are citizens, he has applied for a green card, and he has paid taxes, according to local officials who spoke with his wife. He has worked to build a life here. And he now faces deportation.
Villavicencio-Calderon’s case underscores the human toll of a broken immigration system. For years, the country has struggled and failed to fix it. While Congress bickers, families like the deliveryman’s suffer. Deporting a working father and husband should not be the priority of ICE, and its actions signal that under President Donald Trump, immigrants without criminal records who have established roots in the community are not worthy of leniency. Meantime, no full congressional grand bargain on immigration is in sight as we wait for the House of Representatives to agree on the terms of a new law that would simply safeguard “Dreamers” brought here as children.
Villavicencio-Calderon’s predicament should prompt us to bring some sanity to the immigration system and relief to the millions without authorization living productively in the United States. That’s the only solution if you’re troubled that a man who works hard in a region that benefits from its immigrants now sits in a New Jersey detention center, and that another family is arbitrarily torn apart.