ICE Fines Immigrants in Sanctuary Churches
August 22, 2019
Recently, The Washington Post and National Public Radio (NPR) reported that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is fining undocumented immigrants who have been living in sanctuary churches. This follows President Trump’s executive order that was signed when he entered the White House. It specified that people who did not follow deportation orders and others who facilitated their presence would be fined.
Financial penalties for evading deportation have rarely been issued in the past, and now the Department of Homeland Security has sent out notices to certain immigrants, ordering them to pay for failing to depart the U.S. as previously agreed. Some of the notices have fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, which are too costly for these immigrants to pay. ICE states it is legal for them to fine the immigrants up to $799 each day they remain in the country.
Millions in Fines
One lawyer from North Carolina stated that his client was fined $300,000 for living in a church, who had gone there to avoid deportation. The notice was sent from ICE, and the amount is well beyond the client’s means. Another female immigrant living in an Ohio church faced deportation in 2017. Her application for asylum was denied, even though her two children, who are both U.S. citizens, live in the country. She sought sanctuary at Columbus Mennonite Church, and was recently fined close to $500,000. According to her attorney, she was given 60 days to file an appeal and delay the fine.
Pressure from the Administration
Another lawyer feels that the Trump Administration is attempting to punish those trying to protect these immigrants and that the extremely high fines are being used to force the immigrants from the churches. He added that they do not have the money to pay the fines because they cannot work, since doing so makes them more visible to ICE agents and therefore, more susceptible to deportation.
Although ICE does not usually carry out enforcement operations inside of churches, this could change. The next step could involve ICE officials breaking down the church doors to drag immigrants out. Along with colleagues and advocates, he is hoping to come up with a response that will address the targeting of these at-risk immigrants. At this time, Church World Services is aware of 44 immigrants that are living in sanctuary churches across the country.
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