Former Driver For Trump Family Has Been Held In ICE Facility For 8-Months

Yuki Shimazu / CC-BY-2.0 / Flickr

Zoltan Tamas has been a legal U.S. citizen since 2011, but now he's suffering from Trump's immigration crackdowns.

Zoltan Tamas immigrated legally to the U.S. from Romania in 2011. After immigrating, he became a senior security guard at Trump National Golf Club In Jupiter, Florida. He often acted as a driver for Trump’s campaign staff and family during the 2016 campaign. Tomas paid his taxes and was a law-abiding citizen, yet according to The New York Times, Tomas, 38, has been locked in a correctional facility for eight months as he fights a legal battle to remain in the U.S.

The correctional facility where Tomas is housed is a six-hour drive away from his wife, his 11 year old son, and his 8 year old daughter who suffers from congenital heart disease. During his imprisonment he has not seen his family once.

Although Tamas holds a green card, he was arrested by immigration authorities when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 2016. A background check discovered that he had been convicted in absentia of committing insurance fraud in his home country of Romania.

Tomas’s lawyer is asking ICE to release Tamas while the case goes through the court, but the agency says he needs to be detained because of his crime.

“Zoltan wasn’t caught crossing the border,” said Mr. Tamas’s lawyer, Mario Urizar. “He was in the country legally, paying taxes and has no criminal record in the United States. Why would you keep him detained? They should use their discretionary power to release him.”

Tamas is being held in Wakulla Correctional Institution in Crawfordville, Florida. The institute is near Tallahassee, far from his family in West Palm Beach

Tamas began working at Trump’s property in 2006 when he was 25 years old. He waited on guests and parked cars. His girlfriend at the time, Alina Rogozan, came to the U.S. from Romania on a tourist visa and married Tomas. The two of them returned to Romania and had a son, David, in 2008. Tamas and his family were given permanent residence cards in 2011 when he won the diversity visa lottery. The lottery allows approximately 50,000 people annually to obtain permanent legal residence in the U.S.

Tamas moved to West Palm Beach and was quickly hired by his former Mar-a-Lago boss. He worked while his wife stayed in Romania to give birth to her second child. Rania, their daughter, was born with a congenital heart disease. 5 days after her birth, she was airlifted to Germany for two emergency surgeries. The family soon reunited in West Palm Beach, hopeful that they could get better medical care for Rania in the U.S.

Tamas got a job at the Jupiter golf club in 2013. He trained to become a security officer and handle firearms. He later took another job in the transportation division.

“All the time when Trump’s kids were coming to the airport, he was going to pick them up,” said Ms. Rogozan, 44.

“He worked crazy hours. We knew when he was leaving, but never knew when he was coming back. But he was happy to have work and health insurance for his daughter,” Ms. Rogozan said.

During the 2016 Trump campaign, Tamas was promoted to deputy head of security. He often picked up campaign staff and dignitaries at the airport. Tamas liked the Trumps, telling his wife that “They’re not what you see on TV.”

In 2016, Tamas left his job due to personal issues with his new manager. He then became a chauffeur at Five Star Transportation.

In the same year, Tamas and his family were eligible to become naturalized American citizens, as they had been legal residents of the U.S. for almost five years. They filled out the paperwork and completed biometric exams. While Tamas’s wife was notified that she had been scheduled for an interview with an immigration officer, Tamas was not. He called and sent emails but only heard back that his background check was not complete.

In April 2017, Ms. Rogozan and her two children became American citizens. In June 2018, Tamas received a letter from ICE saying that he needed to report to the agency office to talk about his “inadmissibility” to the U.S. When Tamas and his wife arrived at the office, Tamas was detained without explanation. Tamas was ordered to give his wife his wedding band, phone, and belt. Ms. Rogozan has not seen her husband since.

Ms. Rogozan later learned that Tamas was convicted in absentia of fraud in Romania. The crime appears to have happened when a friend used Tamas’s name to make phony claims to an auto insurer. Tamas’s lawyer said no extradition claim was ever lodged by the government in Romania.

A judge ordered Tamas removed from the country a few months ago, but his lawyer filed a motion to reopen the case. Tamas’s family is arguing that he represents no criminal threat to the U.S.

Scott M. Rocklage, a venture capitalist, said he’s known Tamas for years and offered to be a character witness for him. “He is quite the industrious person,” he said in an interview. “He works hard on everything he does and has the ability to do multiple things at once, from driving and security for Trump to working as a handyman on the side, all in support of his family.”

Although the family has said they would follow Tamas to Romania, the lack of good medical care in the country means that their daughter would be unlikely to survive. Ms. Rogozan said, “It would be signing her death sentence to return to Romania. That is why we are fighting.”