Jackson Heights, N.Y. – When my parents left Ecuador for the United States, they sought the opportunity this nation touted.

They believed the ideals America broadcasted to the world: here is a place where hard work and determination are valued. They instilled those beliefs in me. Today, though, it’s clear people like my family are no longer welcome to the promise of America.

For too many people — those with brown skin or who come from “shithole” countries — the American Dream is a siren song. The Trump administration has adopted the cruel practice of celebrating this nation’s ingenuity and fortitude to anyone with an Internet connection but when people come here seeking asylum — a human right — or to prove their mettle, we say this life is not open to you. This side of the border is the land of milk and honey, and it is not for the tired and the poor huddled on the other side. That is Trump’s message to the world. That was the message Pablo Villavicencio received.

Last week, an outpost of the U.S. government requested a service from Pablo, accepted that service, and then to thank him, it threw him in an Immigration, Customs and Enforcement detention center. That response is disproportionate, it is undignified, it is immoral.

Pablo was detained after he drove to a Brooklyn Army base to deliver a pizza. He did so because he was asked to, and so that when he went home after his shift ended, he could kiss his wife and daughters, safe in the knowledge that he was providing for them what he could. For that — for having the audacity to provide his children an opportunity — he has been dislocated from his family and threatened with deportation.

I ask you to weigh Pablo’s immigration status against ICE’s reaction and tell me, which one is the criminal? It strains credulity that we cannot tolerate an immigrant delivering a pizza but we will support tearing children from the arms of a parent.

It should come as no surprise. President Trump is an unabashed absentee father so why would he wince at the depriving a parent of his or her child?

My parents continue to look to this country’s leadership to find a semblance of the message that brought them here, a hint of the nation that accepted their differences and embraced their culture. Today, it is unrecognizable. And that is shameful.


Francisco Moya is a New York City Council Member representing District 21, which encompasses East Elmhurst, Lefrak City and Corona, where he was born and raised and remains an active resident. Prior to Moya’s 2017 election to the Council, he was elected to the 39th Assembly District in 2010, becoming the first Ecuadorian-American elected to public office in the United States.