Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, December 7, 2019
ICE has issued fines over the past year to about 230 illegal immigrants who have defied judges’ deportation orders to remain in the country, tapping a tool that has been on the books for decades but had been largely ignored until now.
The agency said it also has taken the first steps to revive massive fines — some as large as a half-million dollars — against a group of high-profile illegal immigrants who have taken sanctuary in churches across the country to resist their deportations.
Warning letters went out to seven migrants last week. They amounted to a do-over for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which during the summer issued notices of fines to nine migrants and had to revoke eight of them in October after the agency realized it had skipped a step.
“ICE wants to make it clear that we’re employing every tool we have to urge compliance with judges’ orders. The use of fines will be seen more in the future,” Henry Lucero, ICE’s deputy chief of Enforcement and Removal Operations, told The Washington Times.
Under the law, illegal immigrants defying a deportation order can be fined $500 a day — now $799 when adjusted for inflation — for every day they remain in the country beyond the date they were ordered to be out of the country.
Fine notices began going out late last year, and about 230 notices of intent have been issued so far.
Targets were people such as Edith Espinal, who has been living in sanctuary at Columbus Menonite Church in Columbus, Ohio, for more than two years. Over the summer, she got a notice of a fine of $497,777. Vicky Chavez-Fino, in sanctuary at a Salt Lake City church, got a notice of a fine of about $470,000.
The Rev. Noel Andersen, who oversees the sanctuary movement for the Church World Service, called the fines “yet another inhumane and unjust attempt by ICE to instill fear in the undocumented people who are standing up with courage to tell their stories and challenge the administration’s separation of families.”