Zoltan Tamas continues to be detained at a jail near Tallahassee. The Romanian immigrant, who came to the U.S. legally, has missed his son’s 12th birthday and his severely ill daughter’s eighth birthday.
Nearly a year after he received a reprieve from deportation, a Romanian immigrant who once worked as a driver for Donald Trump remains in purgatory.
Zoltan Tamas continues to be detained at a jail near Tallahassee, his wife said. While Tamas phones his family daily, he’s not allowed face-to-face visits. Tamas has missed his son’s 12th birthday and his severely ill daughter’s eighth birthday.
“We haven’t seen Zoltan since July 2018,” said his wife, Alina Rogozan. “The process is just ridiculous.”
Rogozan has been lobbying for her husband to be released and reunited with his family in West Palm Beach.
Tamas, however, has remained in federal detention for 19 months and faces deportation to Romania. Trump’s immigration crackdown has focused on illegal entrants from Mexico and Central America, and the details of Tamas’ case are atypical. Tamas, 38, entered the country legally, and he is no criminal, at least as far as U.S. authorities are concerned.
His work history in the U.S. includes stints as an armed guard at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and at Trump National in Jupiter and as a driver for the Trump family. Most recently, Tamas worked as a driver for a car service operated by an active member of West Palm Beach’s police force.
Tamas is being held by federal authorities, his attorney says, because of a dubious charge filed against Tamas in Romania. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials saw a Romanian insurance fraud rap on Tamas’ record and called him to an interview, said Mario Urizar, an immigration lawyer in Miami.
Rogozan accompanied Tamas to the meeting at an ICE office in Stuart. She was shocked when an immigration officer told Tamas to give his wife his wedding band, his belt and the contents of his pockets.
Urizar called Tamas a victim of the immigration dragnet that has tightened since Trump took office in 2017. In pre-Trump years, a non-threatening immigrant supporting a family likely would have been released, Urizar said.
“As the weeks go by, we just get more and more disappointed with how things are going,” Urizar said. “The prosecutors used to exercise discretion, and this would be a perfect case to exercise discretion.”
Tamas was scheduled to be deported in April 2019, but Urizar won a reprieve. Since then, however, Tamas has remained in jail.
“His detention is unreasonable,” Urizar said. “It’s taking way too long.”
Immigration attorneys complain that the federal detention system contains none of the transparency and due process that characterizes the rest of the U.S. legal structure.
Rogozan says the family has respected U.S. immigration laws. A few days after their daughter, Rania Tamas-Rogozan, was born with a severe heart defect, doctors in Romania told her parents to accept the inevitable: The little girl would die soon.
“She was born with half a heart,” Rogozan told the Palm Beach Post last year. “The doctors told us to let her die, and to go home and make another one, because we are young.”
Instead, Rogozan and Tamas immediately went to Germany for life-extending heart surgery. The couple already had entered a lottery for U.S. visas, and when they won U.S. residency, the family moved legally to the United States.
Familiar with Palm Beach County from Tamas’ days as a temporary guest worker at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the couple came to West Palm Beach. It was 2011, the pit of the Great Recession, and Tamas and Rogozan paid $60,000 for a foreclosed townhouse.
In his conversations with his wife, Tamas often complains about jail food — plain pasta every day. Rogozan took a full-time teaching job to support the family.
Rania misses her father and has begun to act out severely enough that she now has a behavioral therapist, Rogozan said. Their son seems to be coping better.
“He had to mature so fast,” Rogozan said, “and it’s not fair.”