Sandra Chica is trying to keep things as normal as possible for her two daughters, but these last few weeks have taken a toll on the family.
“Every single day they ask me at night, ‘Why daddy's not here?’ Luciana had her birthday a week ago and she was just crying and asking me why daddy wasn't with me this day.”
Pablo Villavicencio was picked up by immigration enforcement agents a month ago while delivering pizza to the Fort Hamilton Army base in Brooklyn.
Has it been hard without him? “Yes, Very hard,” she said. “It's not the same. Suddenly you become mommy and daddy at the same time and it's not easy.”
Especially since Villavicencio missed several milestones this last month - not just his daughter Luciano's birthday, but also the couple's fifth wedding anniversary.
“It was hard. I put a song on the phone that we used to dance and he was crying, too.”
Villavicencio is being held at the Hudson County Correctional Facility. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested the Ecuadoran native after a guard at Fort Hamilton uncovered a nearly 10-year-old deportation order against him. Villavicencio illegally entered the U.S. in 2008. He was given a voluntary departure order but failed to comply.
“It's unfair because he's not a bad person. He just wants to work for his kids,” his wife said.
Chica is a U-S citizen, as is their children. His lawyers say his wife's citizenship allows him to apply for permanent residency under the law. His legal team is asking for his release while he fights the case and to straighten out his immigration status.
His Legal Aid lawyer says many immigrants are watching this case very closely.
“Because there are so many people at risk at being picked up by ICE and finding themselves going through the same process,” the attorney, Jennifer Williams, said.
For Villavicencio that process has been unbearable. In a phone call to his wife, while we were at their home, the 35-year-old described the conditions as deplorable at the New Jersey detention facility where he is being held.
“In this criminal detention center I have seen it all, including illegally having weapons, knives, fights. I have gotten sick with fungus in my feet. I have gotten skin infections. I’ve had fevers,” he said.
His wife says just wants him home. She's now writing a letter to try to appeal to the judge overseeing the case. NY1 reached out to ICE for a response to this interview – and so far, the agency has not commented.