Regina Zsigmond, 42, and Laszlo Kovacs, 45, were removed from their 2-year-old son Levente Kovacs at the U.S.-Canada border back in May. U.S. border patrol found the couple huddled with the boy behind a fallen tree in the woods near the Chateaugay–Herdman border crossing in southern Quebec. As neither of them held legal permanent status, they were accused of attempting to cross the border into the U.S. illegally.
Zsigmond had come to the U.S. in 2003 as a visitor and overstayed her visa. She obtained legal permanent status when she married a North Carolina man in 2013, however she lost that status when it was discovered she had obtained it through a sham marriage.
When asked how they got to Chateaugay, they told the agents that they flew from Hungary to Toronto last month, took a taxi to Montreal, then paid an Uber driver to take them to the U.S. border. As it was clear they were intent on crossing the border illegally, the parents were taken into federal custody while their son was sent to a private shelter in the Bronx.
The Hungarian boy, who speaks no word of English, spent his second birthday alone at the shelter. According to reports, he was barely eating and did not interact with anyone. The ordeal has likely caused the boy psychological trauma.
"They were going to take him for a psychological evaluation because he was not participating or eating well, and I brought that up in conversation with the supervisor of their center," said John Young, a friend of the couple. "I said, 'He is 2 years old — what are you going to evaluate?'"
Young had been trying to help the couple for weeks to find their son and get him to Hungary with Kovacs' oldest daughter. After contacting her, she filled out multiple forms and provided copies of her passport, her parents' birth certificates and other documents required to reunite her with her brother. She even offered to fly directly to the U.S. to take custody of the boy and return him to Hungary.
Hungarian authorities have also tried to assist in the case by assuring to U.S. authorities that the daughter's residence in Hungary was fit for the boy to stay in. However, Young said they kept dragging out the process, requiring things like the woman's fingerprints which could take as long as a month to obtain.
"Regina and Laszlo have said to me many times, 'Forget about us get our son out of this center,'" Young said.
Currrently, Kovacs is being held in a detention facility in Buffalo where he faces deportation. While the recent court order now mandating the reunification of families with minor children under the age of 5 within the next 14 days, Young questions why the boy has not yet been relocated to Buffalo to be with his father as he waits to be deported.