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Judge Orders Release of Pizza Man Facing Deportation

A federal judge in Manhattan pressed a prosecutor Tuesday to explain why a New York pizza deliveryman from Ecuador married to a U.S. citizen is being detained and facing deportation.

MANHATTAN (CN) – Granting a stay of the Ecuadorean father’s deportation Tuesday, a federal judge in Manhattan ordered the government to immediately release a New York City pizza deliveryman who was arrested last month while making a delivery to an Army base.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty wasted little time after a hearing on Tuesday to grant habeas corpus to Pablo Villavicencio Calderon, whose arrest by immigration authorities the judge suggested had little to do with justice.

“Is there any concept of justice or are we just doing what we want here?” Crotty asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Cordaro on Tuesday morning during arguments over the jurisdiction of Pablo Villavicencio Calderon’s immigration detention.

Since his June 1 arrest while delivering pizzas to Fort Hamilton in South Brooklyn, 35-year-old Villavicencio Calderon has been held at the Hudson County Jail in Kearny, New Jersey. Fort Hamilton is about an hour from the Queens pizzeria Nonna Delia’s, where Villavicencio Calderon worked before his arrest.

A father of two who is married to a U.S citizen, Villavicencio Calderon presented his state-issued municipal ID and was questioned by a guard when he arrived at Fort Hamilton.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took him to jail after a background check revealed that he had an open order of removal since 2010.

Villavicencio Calderon’s counsel from Debevoise & Plimpton and the Legal Aid Society want to keep proceedings in the Southern District of New York, just across the street from ICE headquarters in downtown Manhattan. The government wants the case to proceed in New Jersey, where Villavicencio Calderon is currently confined.

Villavicencio Calderon’s attorneys are seeking his immediate release from detention and a stay of the enforcement of his removal order during the adjudication of his immigration filings.

Matthew Forbes and Ann Domyancic from Debevoise & Plimpton spoke on behalf of Villavicencio Calderon, who is also represented by attorneys from the Legal Aid Society.

“We want it here because we want relief now,” Forbes told Judge Crotty, insisting that if the proceedings were transferred to New Jersey the resolution of the case could be delayed up to a month.

Forbes argued that ICE maintains the legal control and express authorization to release detainees rather than the warden of the Hudson County Jail.

Domyancic explained that Villavicencio Calderon’s current immigration proceedings are ongoing, beginning with his wife’s February petition for alien relative.

Judge Crotty’s 14th floor courtroom was filled to capacity. Villavicencio Calderon’s wife and two daughters sat in the front row right behind prosecutor Cordaro, who refused to guarantee that Villavicencio Calderon would not be deported while his immigration proceedings were still pending.

Supporters gathered outside the Manhattan federal court building with signs that said “Free Pablo” and one pizza box with the message “Families Belong Together.”

“The powerful are doing what they want and the poor are suffering what they must,” Judge Crotty said toward the end of the one-hour hearing at the Manhattan federal courthouse.

The judge did not make an immediate decision on jurisdiction Tuesday.

Villavicencio Calderon has an upcoming U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services interview scheduled for Aug. 21.

If he is ultimately forced out of the United States, a 10-year bar on his re-entry would be triggered.

Prosecutors concede that Villavicencio Calderon has no criminal record but that he entered the country illegally in 2008 and was labeled a fugitive after he was granted voluntary departure in July 2010.

Legal Aid Society attorneys Gregory Copeland and Sarah Gillman brought an emergency habeas corpus petition for Villavicencio Calderon last month after the immigrant’s commissary account at Hudson County Jail was closed out.

In an opposition filing, prosecutor Cordaro argued that Villavicencio Calderon’s detention claims fail on the merits because his detention pending removal is permissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Cordaro claims that in the event that Villavicencio Calderon’s post-removal-order detention exceeds six months, he would still not be entitled for release from custody unless he can reasonably establish that there is no significant likelihood of removal in the forseeable future.

Villavicencio Calderon’s wife, Sandra Chica, a U.S. citizen, filed an I-130 petition for alien relative in February which is currently pending before U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services.

Villavicencio Calderon and Chica live in Hempstead, Long Island. One of the couple’s children has a congenital heart defect.

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