In President Donald Trump’s America, a hard-working immigrant who supports his family and who's currently waiting on a pending green card application is at risk of deportation.
Pablo Villavicencio-Calderon, 35, was sent to Fort Hamilton military base in Bay Ridge, New York, to deliver a pizza. After being allowed in after showing his NYC municipal ID, a soldier reportedly asked him for proof of citizenship. Since Villavicencio-Calderon is in the process of getting his green card, he didn’t show any. That’s when the soldier allegedly called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the immigrant from Ecuador.
He’s now in ICE custody and could be deported.
Sandra Chica, Villavicencio-Calderon’s wife, is an American citizen. So are their two children. She said her husband has been in the country for 10 years and that he applied for a green card in February.
"A lawyer told me that there is nothing he can do, that he is going to be deported," Chica told reporters.
The pizza delivery man is the main breadwinner in the family. He also takes care of the couple’s two children while his wife is at work. With him gone, Chica will have a hard time making ends meet.
"How is it possible that they want to separate the father of two babies... just because he didn't have a document?" Chica asked. "The girls will not stop asking for their dad. We talked with him over the weekend. He was crying, and the girls noticed it, and we didn’t know what to tell them. They are the most affected. They are suffering so much."
During a press conference outside the Bay Ridge base, Councilman Justin Brannan said Villavicencio-Calderon delivers pizza there regularly.
Bay Ridge Councilman Justin Brannan and Villavicencio’s family are here at Fort Hamilton. Councilman Brannan says Villavicencio used his New York State ID to enter the base, as he always had in the past, delivering pizza from Queens. “What was different this time?” Brannan asked. pic.twitter.com/yY3pHHlyIL— Cora Lewis (@cora) June 6, 2018
Press conference at Fort Hamilton demanding the release of Pablo Villavicencio-Calderon https://t.co/Bg1nGzZ2Qq— AJ Ross (@AJRossABC7) June 6, 2018
Murad Awawdeh, vice president of Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition, was also present. He said this incident should bring shame to those who live in the region.
"It's unfortunate that the army base here in Bay Ridge, which is in a community that's vibrant with immigrants... is not reflecting its community values," he said. "It's sad that the army has now deputized MPs to become part of the deportation machine."
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also spoke to reporters, calling for the release of the immigrant.
"It was all right for them to take his pizza, but it was also all right for them to put him in prison," Adams said. "Not in America, not in New York, and not in Brooklyn."
According to Adams, other immigrants will now be afraid of doing anything in New York, where they were promised safety by state officials.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams says “the arrest of Pablo with a municipal ID is sending shockwaves throughout the immigrant community” because immigrants were told they would not be harassed in New York, a sanctuary city, he says. “Delivery to detention is unimaginable.” pic.twitter.com/cttPLZscBn— Cora Lewis (@cora) June 6, 2018
Now, activists are organizing a march to help put pressure on immigration officials.
Bay Ridge for Social Justice’s Alex Pellitteri announced the campaign, which can be found on Facebook.
America has turned into a police state under trump...— #russiagate (@dem2119) June 6, 2018
@realDonaldTrump Are you proud & happy now, #DonaldTrump ? The man is married to an American Citizen w/ 2 sm. children, AND was awaiting his green card! All he was trying to do was earn an honest living to support his family! This is what YOU are creating here! You're sickening!— TMdiMatt4 (@rhodyred2014) June 6, 2018
This america/trump america is shameful.— NGS Till I Die (@RealityIsSocial) June 6, 2018
So sad..those poor girls. How can people live with themselves knowing that they are destroying lives. ??— yahairaOrtiz (@yoquendo28) June 6, 2018
All I can say is there needs to be immigration reform sooner than later. People like him are not enemies of this country— Jimmy (@RandomIgnorance) June 6, 2018
When asked to comment, Fort Hamilton spokesperson Cathy SantoPietro issued a statement saying that the delivery man was directed to a center to get a daily pass since he did not have a "valid Department of Defense identification."
There, he signed "a waiver permitting a background check, Department of the Army Access Control standard for all visitors." That's when they found "an active Immigration and Customs Enforcement warrant" and ICE was summoned.
"Commanders are authorized to take reasonably necessary and lawful measures to maintain law and order and protect installation personnel and property," the statement added.
Despite the outrage online and pressure from local officials, it’s clear that so long as President Donald Trump is in power, immigrants will continue to be at risk. Even those who know they have never committed a crime are in danger.
Hopefully, stories like Villavicencio-Calderon’s will prompt the public to pressure state legislators to put up protections that prevent officials from tipping off federal agents and assisting in more deportations.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Lucy Nicholson