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Governor asks for federal probe of detained pizza man

June 8, 2018
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Legal Aid Society lawyer Jennifer WIlliams, who represents Ecuadorean restaurant worker Pablo Villavicencio, shows the Application for Stay of Deportation or Removal she filed at the offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in New York, Friday, June 8, 2018. Villavicencio, who was making a delivery to an Army garrison in Brooklyn, N.Y., wound up being detained June 1 after a routine background check at the gate revealed there was a warrant for his arrest for immigration law violations, officials said. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s governor on Friday asked for a federal investigation into the conduct of immigration officials after an Ecuadorean pizza shop worker was detained while trying to make a delivery to an Army garrison in Brooklyn.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo requested the probe in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.

Officials said deliveryman Pablo Villavicencio was detained June 1 after a routine background check at the garrison’s gate revealed there was a warrant for his arrest for immigration law violations. He is in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody pending removal from the country.

Cuomo said in his letter that Villavicencio’s “arrest and detention appear to be a result of ethnic profiling and does nothing to make our communities safer.”

The governor said recent detentions by ICE agents raise significant legal questions. Villavicencio’s detention and a recent raid on an upstate dairy farm show “reckless contempt for the constitution,” he said.

Villavicencio’s wife, Sandra Chica, said he went to deliver pizza to Fort Hamilton last week and was asked for identification by the guard who received him. Villavicencio, who worked at a pizzeria an hour away by car in Queens, produced a city identification card, but the official told him he wanted to see a state driver’s license, Chica said.

An Army spokeswoman told The New York Times that if visitors don’t have a military identification card, they have to get a pass that requires a background check. The check on Villavicencio showed there was an active ICE warrant on file, at which point he was detained by military police, said Fort Hamilton spokeswoman Catherine SantoPietro.

ICE spokeswoman Rachael Yong Yow said in March 2010 Villavicencio was granted voluntary departure by an immigration judge but failed to depart by July, as ordered. The voluntary departure order then “became a final order of removal,” she said.

Jennifer Williams, Villavicencio’s Legal Aid Society lawyer, said at a news conference Friday that she filed a motion to stop his removal and to allow Villavicencio to pursue legal residency through his wife, who is a U.S. citizen.

“The enforcement mechanism that was applied in Pablo’s case is inhumane, unjustifiable and should shock the conscience,” she said.

Villavicencio, 35, lives with his wife and two young daughters on Long Island.

“Let him come back to us because he is the center of our family, he is the main support, so we are really going to suffer if he is deported” Chica said in a video statement.

Cuomo said on Thursday that he spoke by phone with Chica to express his “deep frustration with the federal government’s assault on New York’s immigrant families.” He said that a state-provided attorney had talked with Villavicencio, who is being held at a New Jersey facility.

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