By Frank Spotorno
News of Pablo Villaviencio, and his recent arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has spread across our country. Villaviencio, 35 and the father of two, was working as a pizza delivery person in Brooklyn when he delivered a pizza to the Fort Hamilton military base in Brooklyn.
Villavicencio, who had delivered to the base before, showed his New York City identification card to the guard as he had done several times before, but ran into problems and was told he didn’t have proper ID. He ended up “signing a waiver permitting a background check,” which revealed there was an active warrant for his deportation and prompted military police to call ICE.
His upcoming deportation to Ecuador has been stayed by a federal judge until July 20.
This is not the way any of us want to deal with the issue of immigration. Villaviencio had no criminal record and was an undocumented resident who was working and raising his family. His wife, Chica, is a U.S. citizen, and they have two young daughters who were born in the United States.
Shortly after my campaign for Congress in New York City in 2016, I attended a public hearing presented by immigration officials and Congressman Joe Crowley in Queens. At that meeting, representatives for Crowley (who did not attend) highlighted the protections offered by a NYC ID card that would be issued to anyone regardless of their immigration status.
I asked what real protections would be given to undocumented persons who had the ID, and whether such an ID would spare them from deportation. I believed that in the end, the federal government and current immigration laws would supersede NYC’s ID card, which I called bogus.
I also called for a comprehensive immigration law where we address, once and for all, the more than 10 million undocumented resident living in the U.S. by giving them a path to a green card and some form of residency that will keep those who are not criminals and who are law-abiding and productive citizens protected from deportation.
Now, two years later, we still have no compromise on immigration reform, thanks to gridlock in Washington, D.C. And two years later, we are all watching as Villavienco is facing deportation because of the actions of one security guard who, by no fault of his own, was attempting to follow the law.
During my campaign for Congress, there was little open and honest discussion about immigration reform, which will take give-and-take from both sides to address. I have not seen that type of commitment from Crowley, who hailed the NYC ID as a “way to protect our immigrant community.”
Crowley, you have done nothing to bring our immigration reform, and your claim that the NYC ID would protect undocumented residents was not true. Because of your inaction, one of your constituents is facing deportation.
I would organize a protest for Villavienco outside of your home in Queens, but then I remembered, you no longer live in the district. You live in northern Virginia. Villavienco is more of a citizen of New York City than you are, congressman. Shame on your lack of action.
I would also ask our elected officials in New York State: If you issue driver’s licenses to undocumented residents, what happens when they get pulled over and their information is put into the system? Will they be detained?
Let’s use the unfortunate detention of Villavienco to demand that our nation’s leaders sit down with each other and, once and for all, come up with an immigration plan that addresses the needs of all who live in our great country… and that includes you, Congressman Crowley.
Frank Spotorno is a resident of Yonkers and owner of a small business based in Astoria.