It was a sad and frustrating Father’s Day for Luciana Villavincencio and her sister, Antonia.
Their father Pablo was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement three weeks ago while delivering pizza to Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn.
Pablo’s wife, Sandra Chica, told their daughters that their dad didn’t come home because he’s working, something even the little girls found hard to believe on Father’s Day.
“She was asking me why the gifts are still at home,” Chica said, referring to her daughter Luciana. “She was asking me why daddy didn’t come home to pick up his gifts. So, it’s a really hard question as a mom.”
A judge stayed Villavicencio’s deportation, but the father of two remains in ICE custody.
On Monday, Chica, advocates and elected officials joined to file a formal detention release while Villavicencio awaits his next hearing.
“His detention is causing immense heartache, pain and punishment on this family,” said Jennifer Williams, deputy attorney-in-charge of the immigration law unit at the Legal Aid Society.
The filing was made as the Trump administration came under scrutiny for separating immigrant parents from their children at the U.S.- Mexico border. In a tweet, the president blamed Democrats for weak security.
Anna Law, a Brooklyn College professor of constitutional rights, said she believes Trump’s harsh policies are in place to deter immigrants from trying to come the United States in the first place —something the administration has also said. However, she said, immigration hasn’t slowed down, even though immigrants are fully aware of the potential consequences.
“Think of how desperate the situation is at home that you’ve made a calculation in your mind that if I stay here, it’s still worse and more dangerous than if I go to the United States and I’ll take my chances having my child separated from me,” Law said.
Councilman Carlos Menchacha said Villavicenco’s case shows that the policies of the administration aren’t just impacting new immigrants. They’re impacting families much closer to home here in New York.
“It’s not just happening at the border. It’s happening here in our own neighborhoods,” Menchaca said.
Villavicencio is due back in court July 24, but his lawyers said they expect an answer to their release request well before then. In the meantime, they said, everyday he’s locked up is another day of injustice for his family.