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Saturday, December 7, 2019

EXCLUSIVE: ICE Moves To REVIVE Six-Figure Fines Against ILLEGAL Immigrants living in sanctuary

230 illegal immigrants already fined, more on the way as ICE looks to target fugitives

In this Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, photo released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, foreign nationals are arrested during a targeted enforcement operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens in Los Angeles. (Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP) **FILE**

Stephen Dinan

ICE sent warning notices this week to seven illegal immigrants living in sanctuary at American churches, telling them to check in or face fines that could reach well into the six figures, The Washington Times has learned, as the agency ramps up its pressure on people living in the U.S. in defiance of deportation orders.
The warnings are a do-over after an earlier attempt to impose fines on the sanctuary migrants have to be rescinded, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement realized it may have missed a procedural step.
But ICE says those high-profile sanctuary cases, which garnered headlines over the summer, are just the tip of the iceberg. All told some 230 other illegal immigrants have been slapped with fines as part of a new effort to use financial penalties to force people to deport when they’re told to.

 “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,” said Henry Lucero, ICE’s deputy chief of Enforcement and Removal Operations.
Under that law, which has been on the books for decades, 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 their deportation date.
The law had been ignored by previous administrations, but an executive order by President Trump sent ICE searching for tools to cut into the massive number of illegal immigrant fugitives — those who have already gone through their court proceedings and been ordered removed, but who have refused to go.
Fine notices began going out last year, and so far there have been about 230 notices of intent issued.
Mr. Lucero said there’s no systematic screen to decide who will face fines. The decisions are made by deportation officers at the local level on a case-by-case basis, with the key factor being which cases the officers feel the fines may be a necessary way to earn compliance.
He said it’s too early to know how effective the focus on fines has been, but said some fines have been collection from the 230. Others have checked in with ICE and worked out departure plans, while still others have left the country on their own.
Those who ignore the fines can have money garnished.
“Any effort ICE pursues to ensure compliance is worth it,” Mr. Lucero said.
Most of the 230 cases of fines have flown under the radar.
But nine cases received attention over the summer, after the migrants and their lawyers complained when they were hit with ICE notices saying they could face massive fines.
The targets were people such as Edith Espinal, who’s been living in sanctuary at a Columbus, Ohio, church 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.
ICE revoked most of the notices in October, saying it realized it hadn’t ever given an initial warning — but it said at the time it might renew the fines.
This week’s warning notices were the first step on that path.
The immigrants and their defenders called the fines illegal scare tactics
“This is not an intimidation tactic,” Mr. Lucero countered in an interview with The Times. “This is a law. Our country’s immigration laws are not simply suggestions.
He said if the migrants follow the warnings and check in with ICE, they can avoid the fines. ICE will then work with them on an orderly departure.
Attempts Friday to reach lawyers for several of the illegal immigrants were unsuccessful.
Of eight migrants targeted over the summer with notices, one actually self-departed this week, ICE says, so only seven notices went out.
A ninth migrant got a notice over the summer but because that person had previously been warned in a judge’s order, the notice wasn’t revoked in October. It’s not clear where that case stands.
One ICE issues an actual fine, there is an appeals process.
Mr. Lucero said the potential targets for future fines are vast.
“It’s really the entire universe of someone that has a final order issued by an immigration judge,” he said.

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