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Undocumented Driving

eye on the news

Undocumented Driving

New York politicos are up in arms about the Army’s detention of a pizza deliveryman who happens to be an illegal alien. June 12, 2018
Public safety
New York

An illegal alien was arrested last week at a Brooklyn army base while delivering pizzas, and politicians and activists across New York State are crying outrage. Pablo Villavicencio, an Ecuadorian ordered to go home in 2010, was stopped at the gate of Fort Hamilton and asked to provide identification—normal procedure at military bases. He couldn’t produce anything but a New York City municipal ID card, and a background check revealed his deportation order. He was detained and turned over to ICE for removal. He remains in an ICE detention facility in New Jersey, though his deportation has been stayed. 

Advocates have picked up on Villavicencio’s claim that he never signed a release permitting the Army to run a background check and that somehow his rights have been violated. New York governor Andrew Cuomo wrote to the local ICE field director, calling attention to “conflicting reports” about whether demand for identification “comported with the established security protocols at the base” and whether Villavicencio needed to provide any identification, because he was already known there, “based on previous deliveries he had made to the facility.” The governor also questions whether the deliveryman was targeted “because of his perceived ethnicity.”  

These are all red herrings. The salient fact, reported by no media outlet, is that Villavicencio was an unlicensed driver attempting to enter a federal installation. New York State, unlike a dozen jurisdictions around the country, does not license unlawful residents to drive. Any guard worthy of the designation should be curious as to why someone driving a car onto a military base would be unable to produce a license. Indeed, most domestic military bases advertise that civilians entering the grounds must undergo background checks and present government ID. Security is very tight.

Driving without a license in New York State is a crime, punishable with a fine and possibly a 15-day jail sentence. Illegal aliens are frequently arrested for unlicensed driving, as is well known. Such stories are a staple of the Spanish-language press and also appear in the New York Times. Tens of thousands of illegal aliens across America have wound up in deportation proceedings as a result of traffic stops. And possessing a valid driver’s license is widely understood to be the basis for operating a motor vehicle. 

Villavicencio offered the sentry at Fort Hamilton his idNYC card, a form of municipal identification introduced in 2015 by the de Blasio administration. The idNYC card was designed as a form of official government identification available to all residents of the five boroughs, whether here lawfully or not, to facilitate entry into school and government buildings, for interactions with the police, or for financial transactions. It is not valid for buying alcohol or tobacco products, and holders are warned that it cannot be used for airline travel. About 1 million New Yorkers have acquired the card. 

Villavicencio appears to have taken for granted New York City’s sanctuary policy, which strictly observes a “don’t ask, don’t listen” approach to alienage, and from one perspective it is hard to blame him. Elected officials tout the virtues of illegal immigrants on a constant basis, and never stop reminding them that they belong here as much as—if not more than—anyone else. Federal immigration authorities have been barred from New York City’s jails, police stations, and probation offices, and advocates are furious that ICE can enter courthouses on city-owned land. Mayor de Blasio has argued that drunk driving by illegal immigrants is a “minor offense” that should not lead to deportation, as long as no one is hurt.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, speaking after the arrest of Villavicencio, expressed confusion about the limits of municipal jurisdiction. “As a sanctuary city, we need to be clear for those federal locations, what are you requiring of people entering the location,” he said, bemoaning the fact that immigrants “were told they would have some form of living in this city without harassment.” But neither Adams nor Cuomo—not to mention Mayor de Blasio or Senators Charles Schumer or Kirsten Gillibrand, all expressing outrage about the arrest—bothered to mention that Villavicencio was breaking the law by driving without a license, as he apparently did every day. 

Moreover, no one has pointed out that Villavicencio, though possessing a New York City resident identification card, doesn’t live in New York City. He resides in Hempstead, on Long Island. Did he live here previously and then move, in which case the card isn’t accurate, or did he obtain it fraudulently, by using a friend’s address? We probably won’t find out, because the answers might contradict the picture that elected officials and the liberal press paint of hard-working illegals who came here for a better life, delivering the pizzas that Americans won’t deliver.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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