Days after Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents detained a man while delivering a pizza, Brooklyn political figures are divided on whether the actions were justified.
Pablo Villavicencio was arrested Friday after failing to show proper paperwork to a guard at Fort Hamilton Military Base in Bay Ridge. Villavicencio was delivering a pizza to the base from a pizzeria in Queens. Now, lawmakers and candidates are split on if ICE was just doing its job, or if the actions were unethical.
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-South Brooklyn, Staten Island) said the actions were completely legal and that the reactions from activists are unjustified.
“This is just more insanity. Liberal activists are attacking ICE agents and military personnel for following the law in detaining an immigrant reportedly here illegally,” Donovan said
Donovan said this could be prevented from happening again in the future, by securing the borders and stop undocumented immigration altogether.
“If Democrats would actually come to the table and support border security funding, then these types of incidents wouldn’t happen in the future. That’s why I supported $10 billion for President Trump’s border wall and I’m working with him to reform our broken immigration system. The law is the law, and nobody should be telling the brave men and women in uniform not to enforce it,” Donovan said.
Max Rose, an army veteran who served in Afghanistan, said the response from Donovan is another reason why he should take Donovan’s place in Congress.
“Dan Donovan should be ashamed of himself for his statement after Pablo Villavicencio-Calderon was taken into custody by ICE while delivering a pizza,” Rose said. “By all accounts this was a father, on his way to becoming an American citizen, working hard to provide for his family. As a combat veteran, I am offended that he would use the military as a political shield to appear tough on undocumented families. It is absurd that we are wasting federal dollars on arresting non-violent residents when our country faces more severe threats. We need to fix our immigration system, and Dan Donovan needs to discover some semblance of dignity.”
The Democrat has become the front-runner in a race that will see him face off against the winner of the primary between Donovan and Michael Grimm for the Republican nomination.
On the state level, while some lawmakers demanded answers as to why something like this was allowed to happen, one state senator who represents the area said everyone involved was just doing their job.
State Senator Martin J. Golden (R), who is a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, said the base took the correct actions in asking for identification from Villavicencio.
“As a result of military police action at the Fort Hamilton Army Base, in accordance with the Department of Army Access Control standards for all visitors, an individual with a warrant was identified upon seeking entrance to the Fort. Consequently, the proper authorities were alerted and the individual was taken into custody. I would expect nothing less from the Fort Hamilton Commander and its dedicated personnel who have committed their lives to protecting our citizens and country,” Golden said
But City Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst) held a press conference Wednesday with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (D) to condemn the actions of the military base and said the situation just brought more questions than answers.
“Does the Army now have a new policy that demands all non-military personnel show proof of citizenship to gain access onto an army base?” Brannan asked. “Is this part of Donald Trump’s deportation strategy? Why was Pablo Villavicencio singled out? Why was this time different than any times in the past when Pablo entered the base? Is our city, state, and nation any safer today because we took Pablo the pizza delivery man off the street?”
Villavicencio, who is married to a US Citizen and has two daughters under the age of 5, will be facing deportation back to Ecuador. He has no felony arrests.
“We have torn apart a family,” Brannan said. “For what?! These immigrant families embody the American dream. If our country provided them with any sort of real pathway to legal residency, I know they would jump through a million hoops to get there. But we don’t. Our immigration system is completely broken, and instead of fixing it, Donald Trump has decided to invest in deporting women, children, and asylum seekers with no criminal record back to countries where their lives are at risk—in turn tearing apart their families. I think Pablo’s wife, children, and family deserve a full account of what happened here.”
According to Brannan, Villavicencio is currently being held in an ICE detainment facility in New Jersey. Brannan applauded the Spanish-speaking media for bringing the issue to the forefront. The story was first reported by El Diario Friday.
“I’ve gotta commend the Spanish-language media for bringing this to light,” Brannan said. “Without them, we would be completely in the dark here. Let me be clear, we have always had a very good relationship with the Fort Hamilton Army Base. They are a vital part of our community and I am honored to represent the only active military base in the City of New York. That said, the fact that I had to learn about this incident from an article in El Diario is very troubling.”