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Judge Stops Deportation Of Detained Pizza Delivery Man


A federal judge has temporarily stopped the deportation of a New York pizza delivery man. The man was detained while delivering food to a U.S. Army base. NPR's Shannon Van Sant reports.

SHANNON VAN SANT, BYLINE: Pablo Villavicencio-Calderon is being held at a federal detention facility in New Jersey and will stay there at least until a court hearing on July 20. His attorney Gregory Copeland of the Legal Aid Society says the temporary stay is a victory for his client, who is an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador.

GREGORY COPELAND: He's been incredibly traumatized by this whole situation. You know, in the last nine days, he's been torn away from his family, and in the last three days, he's been convinced that he was about to be sent home to a country that he has very little connection to.

VAN SANT: Villavicencio was on a food delivery run to an Army base near the Statue of Liberty. It's a trip he's made several times before. But this time, after Villavicencio showed his I.D., the base did a background check which revealed he had been ordered to leave the country eight years ago. He was then arrested and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Villavicencio's wife says she and their children are U.S. citizens - the kids were born in the U.S. - and that Villavicencio applied for a green card in February. In a federal lawsuit, Villavicencio's lawyers say he is a victim of racial profiling and that the detention violated his constitutional rights. Copeland says the Trump administration's focus on illegal immigration makes Villavicencio's sudden arrest and possible deportation a much more common scenario.

COPELAND: This case has gotten a lot of publicity, but it's sadly also a very normal case where families are being torn apart, people are suffering and the government doesn't seem to care about anything but executing an order of removal.

VAN SANT: Prominent Democrats have spoken in defense of Villavicencio. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted that there is compelling evidence he was improperly detained. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is calling the incident shameful and the Trump administration policies inhumane. Copeland says his first priority is getting his client released from custody.

COPELAND: I think that the number one goal at this point in terms of next steps is to get him reunited with his family.

VAN SANT: Shannon Van Sant, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Shannon Van Sant