Flavio Musmanno, an undocumented immigrant from Argentina who came to the United States on the visa waiver program, had been working construction jobs in Ohio over the summer when he lost his wallet on August 28. A few hours later, someone called Musmanno asking him to meet at truck stop to retrieve his wallet.
According to family, Musmanno believed the man at the other end of the line was just a Good Samaritan returning a found wallet. In reality, it was an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.
Musmanno was subsequently detained and is currently being held inside the Seneca County Jail, awaiting deportation.
“When I found out what was in the wallet, I was like, ‘Oh, Dad, why did you go?'” his stepdaughter Paola told the Miami New Times. “There was no phone number in the wallet. You wouldn’t go meet strangers who found you like that, right?”
Musmanno’s wife, a recent U.S. citizen, said the couple recently filed a Form I-130, a petition used by citizens to ask the federal government to issue relatives a green card. According to Paola, Musmanno had received confirmation from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the form was being processed.
Despite his open green card case, however, Musmanno is scheduled for deportation sometime Tuesday.
The news has devastated Musmanno’s family. Speaking with Rise News, Musmanno’s 16-year-old son Francisco tearfully described how his father looked while sitting in the detention facility.
“His fingers, his skin was peeling off, because of the nervousness,” Francisco said. “And you could see that his movements just didn’t feel natural, he didn’t feel OK.”
Paola claimed ICE agents did not identify themselves to her stepfather on the phone, a tactic immigration law enforcement officials have used previously. In the past, ICE has texted undocumented immigrants out of the blue, tricking them into deportation talks. Some agents have even impersonated family members, luring individuals out of church by sending texts instructing them to come outside, where they were subsequently arrested.
Like Musmanno, the majority of those tricked into deportation do not have a criminal record. According to the Associated Press, arrests of noncriminal immigrants have increased 66 percent this year. In the first 14 months of the Trump administration alone, that number more than tripled.
“Things are not good where we came from,” Paola told the New Times this week. “If people find out he was living in Miami, they might think he has money and try to rob him or kidnap him.”
She added, “They just want to deport him! They won’t tell us anything else. We sent them the petition he filed, but they just ignored it and keep saying they’re going to deport him.”
According to Rise News, Musmanno does not have the right to be heard by a judge prior to his removal. His lawyer says he will be unable to return to the United States for 10 years.
“I still don’t believe it, I’m still in shock,” son Francisco told the outlet. “It hasn’t hit me yet that my dad may not be a part of my life for a while. And I just don’t want to see him go.”
The family has started a GoFundMe to pay for Musmanno’s legal expenses and bills, and plans to use some of the funds to help reestablish him in Argentina. He is leaving behind his wife, four children, and two grandchildren, they said.