Photo: Getty

An Argentinian man who has lived in the U.S. for 18 years is set to be deported, despite being in the process of applying for a marriage-based green card, after ICE agents reportedly tricked him into thinking they were friendly strangers returning his lost wallet as a pretense to arrest him.

As the Miami New Times reported today, Flavio Musmanno was working construction jobs in Ohio when he lost his wallet. Within a few hours, someone called to say they had found it and asked him to meet at a truck stop. The paper reports that Musmanno’s stepdaughter, Paola, told them the agents “painted themselves as good people trying to return his wallet”—just a couple of Good Samaritans. But when Musmanno arrived, ICE agents arrested him.

Musmanno was sitting in jail, slated for deportation sometime today. And he really isn’t in good shape, according to the New Times:

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.”

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His family have set up a GoFundMe page to pay legal fees and help him get re-established in Argentina.

Musmanno filed a petition earlier this year for permanent residency on the basis of his marriage to Paola’s mother. Paola told the paper they “sent them the petition he filed, but they just ignored it and keep saying they’re going to deport him.” He has no criminal record, according to the Miami New Times.

In April, the New York Times reported that ICE had begun deporting even people who were married to U.S. citizens, including at the interviews required to get a marriage-based green card, with immigration lawyers noting an “an unmistakable swell in the number of clients arrested at marriage interviews over the past few months.”

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Last month, the Associated Press reported that ICE arrests of people without criminal records have increased 66 percent this year, whereas arrests of people with criminal records increased just two percent. Many of those with previous offenses had only committed traffic violations.

In Trump’s America, the violation of overstaying your visa is a good enough reason to deport you away from your family, in the middle of your green card application, to a country you haven’t lived in for 18 years. But Trump supporters won’t stop downplaying his own crimes—including in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, where an op-ed writer recently argued that the New York Times reporters who uncovered Trump’s decades of tax evasion were unfairly insisting on “rigid adherence to the law,” because “nobody in their right mind from the compulsive accumulator class pays the punitive federal estate tax,” only to have “their lifetime achievements...sucked up and splattered away in 15 seconds of federal spending.”

The Miami New Times noted that “ICE is allowed to release whomever it wants for any reason.” (Splinter has reached out to ICE for comment and will update this post if and when we hear back.) But the chasm between those who feel the full weight of the law in this country and those who get away without so much as a slap on the wrist tells you everything you need to know.

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Update, 8:00 PM ET, 10/09/2018:

A Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson provided the following statement to Splinter, emphasis ours:

On August 28, 2018, U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Sandusky Bay Station in Port Clinton, Ohio arrested Flavio Francisco Musmanno a citizen of Argentina. Per U.S. Customs and Border Protection policy we are not authorized to discuss tactics used in the apprehension of this individual. At the time of his arrest Flavio Francisco Musmanno was illegally present in the United States for nearly 18 years after entering the country on the Visa Waiver program. Individuals who overstay the terms of their visa are unable to obtain legal status pursuant to INA 245(c)(4). U.S. Border Patrol verified that at the time of his arrest, Mr. Musmanno had no petitions on file to change his legal status to permanent residency. Musmanno was processed and turned over to ICE/ERO for removal.