Flavio Musmanno lost his wallet August 28. He has lived in North Miami Beach on an expired visa since emigrating from Argentina in 2000, but he'd since married an American citizen and is in the process of applying for permanent residency.
Musmanno had been away from his family while working construction jobs in Ohio when his wallet went missing over the summer. When he dropped the billfold, it contained little more than a few credit cards, an expired ID, and $40 in cash. But his family tells New Times that someone called back within just a few hours that day and asked Musmanno to meet at an Ohio truck stop to retrieve the wallet.
When he arrived, the supposed Good Samaritan who had found the wallet turned out to be an agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Musmanno's stepdaughter Paola tells New Times.
"When I found out what was in the wallet, I was like, 'Oh, Dad, why did you go?'" Paola asks rhetorically. "There was no phone number in the wallet. You wouldn't go meet strangers who found you like that, right?"
Paola stresses that ICE agents never identified themselves on the phone with her stepfather. She says they simply painted themselves as good people trying to return his wallet. Musmanno is now sitting in Ohio's Seneca County Jail and is slated for deportation sometime today.
Spokespeople for ICE did not immediately respond to messages from New Times. But the family is now collecting money on GoFundMe to pay Musmanno's immigration lawyer and to help him get back on his feet in Argentina.
The Musmannos spoke with Miami-based Rise News earlier this week. They sat down with reporter Rich Robinson in their North Miami Beach home, where Musmanno's 16-year-old son Francisco nearly broke down in tears describing how his father looked sitting inside the detention facility.
"His fingers, his skin was peeling off, because of the nervousness," Francisco Musmanno told Rise, "and you could see that his movements just didn't feel natural, he didn't feel OK."
Musmanno's stepdaughter Paola says her mother became a U.S. citizen earlier this year. Musmanno and his wife have since filed a Form I-130, a petition that U.S. citizens can use to ask the federal government to give relatives green cards. Paola says her father received a confirmation that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had received the form and was processing it. But even though Musmanno's green-card case is open, she says local ICE agents in Ohio are dead-set on deporting her stepdad.
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"They just want to deport him!" she tells New Times. "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. And things are not good where we came from — if people find out he was living in Miami, they might think he has money and try to rob him or kidnap him."
Musmanno's story is similar to that of multiple other, undocumented South Florida immigrants New Times has profiled this year. One Jacksonville woman, Mary Caceres, was shipped to an ICE detention facility in Broward County earlier this year despite the fact she held a valid work visa. Another woman, "Maria," was arrested in Martin County when she tried to pay a $150 traffic fine. She was also shipped to the same Broward facility but was released earlier this summer.
Like those two women, Musmanno has never been arrested and has no criminal record. ICE is allowed to release whomever it wants for any reason. Musmanno's children are now begging ICE to reconsider deporting their stepfather today.
"Three years ago, my brother was bullied at school," Paola says of her stepfather, "but my dad was the one who helped him take all his feelings out and get him through it."