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An immigrant detained while delivering pizza this summer was arrested and accused of shoving his wife

Pablo Villavicencio, an undocumented immigrant who was detained while delivering pizza to a US military base...

Posted: Oct 23, 2018 7:25 AM
Updated: Oct 23, 2018 7:25 AM

Pablo Villavicencio, an undocumented immigrant who was detained while delivering pizza to a US military base this summer, was arrested after being accused of shoving his wife against a wall and stopping her from calling police, court records show.

Villavicencio has been charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief in the fourth degree in connection with a domestic incident, according to court paperwork.

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Villavicencio "was involved in an argument with his wife at their residence," and "during the argument the defendant pushed the complainant against the wall and slapped her body," according to the court record provided by a law enforcement source to CNN.

His wife then indicated she was going to contact the police, the court document said. That's when Villavicencio took her cellular telephone from the kitchen counter, preventing her from contacting the police. During the investigation, the cell phone was recovered from his shorts pocket.

The charge stems from Villavicencio taking his wife's phone to stop her from calling police. It was unclear how local police were called to the home.

He was arrested on Friday, according to the court records, and arraigned Saturday. A temporary order of protection was issued and Villavicencio was ordered held on $500 bond or $250 cash, court records show.

Villavicencio's attorney, Bruce Anthony Barket, said the case is "much to-do about nothing," adding that "the factual allegations don't really match the charges." He confirmed that Villavicencio is in custody, and said an ICE hold had been filed. "If there wasn't an ICE hold, he'd be out already," Barket said.

A symbol of the immigration debate

Villavicencio's story became a flashpoint in the Trump administration's stance toward immigrants when he was detained and nearly deported after delivering pizza to a military base in Brooklyn in June.

Villavicencio, an immigrant from Ecuador, delivered the food to Fort Hamilton and showed his New York City identification card to the guard, as he had many times previously, his wife said at the time. Fort Hamilton said he did not have a "valid Department of Defense identification" and so asked him to get a visitors pass.

He signed a waiver permitting a background check, which revealed there was an active warrant for his deportation and prompted military police to call immigration agents, according to the base and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

An immigration judge had ordered Villavicencio's deportation in 2010 after he overstayed his visa, ICE said. He filed for his green card in February and was waiting for a response when he was detained, said his wife, Sandra Chica.

The detention of Villavicencio, who is married to a US citizen and has two young daughters born in America, sparked criticism the Trump administration was targeting undocumented immigrants who had done nothing wrong.

"He was doing his job, he wasn't committing a crime," Chica said. "He wasn't doing anything illegal other than working to support his two daughters."

His detention also raised questions as to whether he was targeted because of his New York City ID, a free ID card available to anyone, regardless of immigration status.

"They (undocumented immigrants) were told with this ID, they would have some form of liberty in this city without being arrested," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a Democrat. "We are setting a dangerous precedent with what we saw here."

A federal court temporarily blocked Villavicencio's deportation a week afterward, and he was released from detention in July, his attorneys said.

"I love this country," he said in Spanish after being freed, according to a CNN translation. "I love this country because it gave me this family. (It) gave me my daughters, but I do not share the intolerance and disrespect of the current government."

The government later dropped its appeal of the court order that freed Villavicencio, leading New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to criticize the original reason for his detention.

"ICE's arrest of Mr. Villavicencio while he was doing his job was an outrageous affront to our New York values and raised serious concerns of ethnic profiling," Cuomo said.

The governor's office declined comment at this time.

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