A judge on Tuesday ordered the immediate release of an Ecuadorean immigrant who was held for deportation after he delivered pizza to a Brooklyn Army installation.
“Although he stayed in the United States unlawfully and is currently subject to a final order of removal, he has otherwise been a model citizen,” US District Judge Paul Crotty wrote of Pablo Villavicencio.
The Manhattan judge said Villavicencio, who was being held at a New Jersey lockup, can remain in the United States while he exhausts his right to try to gain legal status. Villavicencio applied to stay in the US after he married a US citizen, with whom he has two young girls.
The judge cited those children and said they are US citizens.
“He has no criminal history,” the judge wrote. “He has paid his taxes. And he has worked diligently to provide for his family.”
The US government, which had wanted the case moved from New York to New Jersey, did not immediately comment on the judge’s action.
Villavicencio walked out of the immigration detention center shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday and was greeted with hugs from his jubilant wife and two young daughters. He thanked supporters and the media before being whisked away in an SUV.
Villavicencio was arrested on June 1 while making a delivery to the garrison in Fort Hamilton. When he arrived at Fort Hamilton, guards requested identification, and he produced a city identification card. A background check showed he had been ordered to leave the United States in 2010 but stayed.
Villavicencio’s two girls, ages 2 and 4, played with toys on Tuesday as courtroom spectators around them observed the legal arguments. Villavicencio was not in court.
Another judge had already temporarily blocked his deportation.