Zoltan Tamas, a Romanian father who has worked as a driver for Donald Trump’s family and staff, has been held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the past eight months, The New York Times reported on Friday.
The 38-year-old served as a driver for Trump’s children and campaign staff in South Florida during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Times reported. He was a senior security guard at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, and also worked in transportation there.
Tamas, who has a green card, was arrested by immigration agents after applying to be a U.S. citizen in 2016, and a background check found he’d been convicted “in absentia” in Romania for insurance fraud. He has no criminal record in the U.S. since he immigrated here legally in 2011, per the Times.
Now he’s in a legal fight to stay in the country with his wife and two kids, who are American citizens. He hasn’t seen them ― including his 8-year-old daughter, who has congenital heart disease ― since being taken into custody by ICE last summer.
“He was in the country legally, paying taxes and has no criminal record in the United States,” Tamas’ attorney Mario Urizar told the Times. “Why would you keep him detained?”
A few months ago, a judge ordered that Tamas be deported. As his lawyer appeals the decision, he has asked that ICE release Tamas while his case moves through the courts.
Since the Times article published, ICE notified the court that it would try to deport him by April 9, Urizar told HuffPost by email Friday. There had previously been no date set to deport Tamas before the article, per the lawyer.
“Coincidence? I doubt it,” the attorney said, adding that he thinks ICE has now officially passed “the threshold into cruelty.” Urizar is now working to draft a request with the federal court to stop Tamas’ deportation.
“We just wanted him out for his dying daughter,” his lawyer said. “Every day counts for this little girl. ... Her situation is critical.”
ICE told HuffPost in a statement that it could not speak to the decisions of the federal immigration courts, adding that “a person who has been ordered removed from the country by a federal immigration judge is no longer a lawful permanent resident ― even if they may once have been.”
HuffPost reached out to the White House, but did not immediately receive a response.
Under the Trump administration, which has a long record of anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, all undocumented immigrants ― not just those with criminal histories ― have become targets for deportation. (Tamas, who has a green card, would not be considered undocumented.) ICE arrests increased by 40 percent during Trump’s first eight months in office, compared to the same period the previous year.
Late last year, the Times reported the story of an undocumented woman who worked for Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Democrats later invited the woman to attend the president’s State of the Union address in February.