HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Wednesday was the first full day of freedom for Pablo Villavicencio, the pizza deliveryman who'd been detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for more than a month-and-a-half.
The citizen of Ecuador who was living in the U.S. illegally was arrested in Brooklyn on June 1 then detained in New Jersey.
A judge ordered on Tuesday that the father of two young girls be released from custody. He faces a green card hearing in Manhattan next month. For now, though, he says he's enjoying being with his family again.
"So happy!" Villavicencio, 35, exclaimed in his driveway Wednesday morning. "For my wife, for my daughters. It's so unbelievable."
He described in Spanish the first thing he did when he'd finally returned home at about 1 a.m. Wednesday. His wife Sandra Chica translated.
"He lied down on the carpet," she said.
He explained further, in English: "[It's] my favorite place to play with my kids."
It was a sharp contrast to the spartan conditions at the Hudson County Jail where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a contract to house immigration detainees. Villavicencio had been housed there since the first week of June, when he'd been found to be in violation of a deportation order.
The discovery came during a background check that he had voluntarily undergone at Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn. He was at the base delivering pizza, a job he said he'd performed countless times before.
"He wasn't doing anything wrong," Chica said while her husband played with their 4-and 2-year-old daughters. "[He was] just trying to get the money to raise them, to survive."
At about 9:10 p.m. Tuesday, Villavicencio was released from the Hudson County lockup and hugged his wife and daughters.
They had badly missed their father, Chica said, and it was evident now that he'd returned.
"She used to cry in the night, 2 in the morning," Chica said about her older daughter, Luciana. "Sometimes she'd tell me, 'I saw my daddy in front of me [in a dream]. Where is he?'"
"As a mother," she said, "I can tell you that I see different faces [on my children] today."
Chica and the couple's two girls are all U.S. citizens. Villiavicencio is continuing his process to get permanent residency so that he can stay in New York with his wife and daughters.
He had postponed the green card process for years, but began it months ago. His wife explained the delay, saying it was too costly for the family.
"Because this [process] is expensive," Chica said. "Sometimes, you have to think, 'I have to pay the rent, or pay a lawyer.'"
For his part, Villavicencio said that the whole experience had not soured his view of the U.S. His opinion of the Trump Administration, however, was less than favorable.
"I love this country," Villavicencio said. "I love New York, I love this city. [It's the] best country in the world. [As for] this administration, I don't know what happened."
The administration is still interested in deporting him.
Villavicencio and his attorneys will have to argue against it at the hearing on his permanent resident status scheduled for Aug. 25.