‘They Gave Me My Life Back After I Went Through Hell’

Pablo Villavicencio, at his home with his daughters Luciana and Antonia after ICE released him. (Photo via El Diario)

On Wednesday, after spending 53 days in an ICE detention center, Pablo Villavicencio woke up in his own bed, where he slept with his wife and his two daughters, Luciana, 4, and Antonia, 3. The look on the Ecuador native’s face shows the joy he feels, not to mention the eyes of his wife and daughters. Luciana had predicted it: She said Daddy would be back home on Tuesday, and she was right.

“They gave me my life back after I went through hell, and I know that being free gives me more strength to fight,” said the delivery man. Villavicencio was released on Tuesday on the order of Federal Judge Paul Crotty almost two months after “la migra” arrested him when a guard called ICE for no apparent reason as Villavicencio delivered a pizza to a Brooklyn military base.

“They told me that the judge had not reached a decision after Tuesday’s hearing. At around 8 p.m., I was taking a shower and heard my cellmates screaming and saying that I was going home. They had seen it on TV,” said the father of two as he remembered how he got the news.

“I jumped out of the shower, and a while later a sergeant came by and said that I was going home… At around 10, I stepped outside, and my daughters were there, my wife, and my mother-in-law and many friends who came together for this cause. My daughter Luciana rushed toward me and said that she loved me very much, and then we went home in a car… It is all very emotional,” said Villavicencio, adding that he was barely able to sleep that night.

“The first thing I did was lie down on my carpet, and then I saw my daughter get on her knees and say ‘thank you, dear God.’ It made me cry,” said the Ecuador native. On his first morning at home, his family made him a Colombian breakfast that included coffee, arepas, perico eggs and cheese.

Villavicencio admits that he is still overwhelmed by all he lived through during his confinement and by the anguish of having been separated from his family. Still, he said, despite the anti-immigrant climate the Trump government has created, his freedom is proof that justice is more powerful than any government.

“This was an act of justice in which the country I love made it clear that it defends the innocent and gave me credit for being a model citizen with a clean record,” he said. That afternoon, his Colombian-born wife Sandra Chica took the girls to a pool to fulfill her eldest’s wish of swimming with Daddy again.

“Now, the next thing for me will be to continue fighting so that the outcome of my residence case is positive,” concluded Villavicencio. He has an appointment with USCIS on Aug. 21 to review his adjustment of status application, which was submitted several months ago. “As if it was a sign from heaven, we got the letter yesterday,” he said.

(…) Chica said that, as soon as her husband’s papers are in order, the family plans to go to Disney World in Florida so the couple’s two “princesses” can see the “world of princesses” in person. “Also, we want to go to Ecuador so he can visit his mom.”

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