NEW YORK — Food delivery. Sanctuary. Those are often the anchors for the more than a half-million unauthorized immigrants who live and work in New York City.
Pablo Villavicencio Calderon, 35, an unauthorized immigrant, was making a delivery from a brick-oven pizza restaurant in Queens to the Army base next to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Friday before lunchtime.
According to his wife, Sandra Chica, he presented a New York City identification card, as he had done in the past. The card, provided through a program called IDNYC, was supposed to give unauthorized immigrants a method of proving their identification when dealing with city agencies, including the police department and schools, neither of which are allowed to ask about immigration status.
But on that day, Chica said, it was not enough for the military police officer on duty, who said Villavicencio needed a driver’s license, which he did not have. A background check revealed an open order of deportation from 2010. Military personnel detained him and called Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, who took him into custody, an official for the immigration agency said.
He is scheduled to be deported to Ecuador next week, his wife said.
“The arrest of Pablo with a municipal ID is sending shock waves throughout the immigrant community, because they were told they would have some form of living in this city without harassment,” Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a Democrat, said at a news conference Wednesday outside the Army base. “Now everyone with those IDs are afraid what will happen.”
The Trump administration made it clear from the outset that all immigrants living illegally in the United States would be subject to deportation; there would no longer be priorities emphasizing the deportation of dangerous criminals.
According to Catherine SantoPietro, a spokeswoman for the Army command at the base, only a Department of Defense or military identification is acceptable for entry. Otherwise, visitors must get a day pass, which requires an on-site background check.
“Upon signing a waiver permitting a background check, Department of the Army Access Control standard for all visitors, an active Immigration and Customs Enforcement warrant was discovered on file,” SantoPietro said in a statement.
The incident exposed the tenuous protection unauthorized immigrants have in New York, despite that fact that as a sanctuary city, it limits cooperation with immigration officials.
And using an IDNYC card can have unintended consequences, acting as a signal that a holder is unauthorized. “Because when you show that, you are telling the other people, ‘Listen, I don’t have a driver’s license,'” Chica said.
“Is this city, state and nation safer because they took a pizza delivery guy off the street?” asked Justin Brannan, a Democratic city councilman representing Brooklyn, at the news conference.
Adams wondered why the base policy had appeared to shift, since according to Villavicencio he had delivered without incident before. “That is why, as a sanctuary city, we need to be clear for those federal locations, what are you requiring of people entering the location,” Adams said.
But state Sen. Martin Golden, a Republican member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, applauded the actions of the military police, saying he “would expect nothing less from the Fort Hamilton commander and its dedicated personnel who have committed their lives to protecting our citizens and country.”
Villavicencio knew he was constantly at risk of deportation, his wife said. He had no criminal record, according to a spokeswoman for ICE, as the immigration agency is known. He was granted a voluntary departure order from an immigration judge in 2010 but did not leave. That made him a fugitive.
Villavicencio married Chica, 38, a naturalized citizen from Colombia, five years ago, she said. They live in Hempstead, on Long Island. They have two daughters. In February, Chica said, her husband had applied for a green card as the spouse of a U.S. citizen but had not heard back.
He had been working for the past eight months for Nonna Delia’s, a College Point, Queens, brick-oven pizza restaurant. Doing a delivery job without a driver’s license “was his mistake,” his wife said.
A manager at the restaurant, reached by phone Wednesday, would only say that Villavicencio “is a good guy” but did not want to comment further because “the family is suffering.” The restaurant is a nearly an hour away from the base, and the manager acknowledged it had delivered there in the past.
Chica said the personnel at the base had still accepted his food delivery. When she went to pick up his car, the two large containers designed to hold the food were empty, she said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.