President Trump signed an executive order in 2017, not long after taking office, to enforce civil penalties against illegal aliens to beef up efforts to hold them accountable, as well as those who assist them by providing sanctuary. Penalties began being assessed by federal officials in December 2018 and the process is progressing to the step of notifying those involved. That includes illegal aliens seeking sanctuary in churches to avoid deportation.
These fines are nothing new, though rarely issued in the past. To read some reporting on the enforcement by the current administration, you would not know that. President Clinton signed on to fining illegal immigrants during his presidency. The fines were reduced later and during Obama’s administration, he implemented a more lax policy that allowed those here illegally to remain safe from deportation as long as they broke no other laws. Faced with unparalleled illegal migration, President Trump is using everything at this disposal to try and ease the burden. That includes issuing fines, though there is no reasonable expectation that they will be paid.
The civil penalties for violating immigration laws have existed since 1996, when President Bill Clinton (D) signed a hard-line bill into law. In the rare instances when fines have been assessed, they have been lower, about $1,000, said Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Trump has repeatedly blasted sanctuary jurisdictions for not helping immigration officials detain and deport immigrants, even those arrested for a crime, and earlier this year swept out ICE’s acting director and his homeland security secretary, saying he wanted to go in a “tougher” direction.
The stories meant to tug at your heartstrings are being written as I type this. The open borders crowd want no consequences for jumping the line and entering the country illegally. President Trump and his administration are trying to use a carrot and stick solution here. Trump delayed sanctuary city raids by ICE in order to allow some time for Democrats to join with Republicans to fund border operations. It is reasonable, though, that he continued on with civil penalties. Lawyers for the illegal aliens protest on social media, as you would expect. Trump is not just a bad orange man, he’s also Dr. Evil.
— Jeremy McKinney (@McKJeremy) July 2, 2019
There are two types of fines being issued. One is more costly than the other. There is an appeal process and a 60 day deadline to file one.
ICE said it is issuing two types of fines. One targets immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, such as Ortez Cruz, threatening them with penalties of up to $799 a day. In a year, an immigrant could accrue fines of more than $291,635.
A second fine targets immigrants who agreed to leave the United States voluntarily and then did not. They would typically face a lesser fine of up to $4,792 total, although an immigration judge could increase or decrease the penalty slightly.
People seeking sanctuary in churches because of outstanding deportation orders will be fined. Immigration lawyers call this intimidation. Supporters of America’s sovereignty might call it enforcing the rule of law.
Lizbeth Mateo represents Edith Espinal-Moreno, who has been living in a church in Ohio since she was ordered removed from the U.S. in 2017. Mateo said Espinal-Moreno moved to Ohio as a teenager but was forced to return to Mexico. She tried to return and present herself for asylum but her application was denied. To avoid being deported and separated from her two children, who are U.S. citizens, she took sanctuary in the Columbus Mennonite Church, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
According to the letter from ICE, provided to ABC News, Espinal-Moreno is being fined $497,777, because she “willfully” refused to leave the country or comply with ICE orders.
“My fear is that they’re gearing up toward going after the churches that are providing sanctuary to these people, they’re trying to intimidate my client and other people like her and they’re trying to intimidate the community,” Mateo told ABC News.
Notices of fines have to be issued before the fine is levied. Once ICE issues the fine, an appeal can be made to the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals. As I said above, there is no real expectation of these fines being paid by those here illegally. It is, however, a tool to discourage those thinking about coming here outside of the legal process.
“ICE is committed to using various enforcement methods — including arrest; detention; technological monitoring; and financial penalties — to enforce U.S. immigration law and maintain the integrity of legal orders issued by judges,” ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke said in a statement.
Now that letters are being delivered to notify illegal aliens of civil fines coming their way, President Trump expects Congress to continue working on immigration reform. Those ICE raids that were delayed before the 4th of July recess because of the supplemental funding for the border passed by Congress will begin if Congress doesn’t address asylum laws on the books.
The letters come as the Trump administration prepares to carry out delayed immigration sweeps of migrant families who have received deportation orders. President Trump said Monday, while signing legislation providing $4.6 billion in funding to address the influx of migrants from Central America, that the immigration raids will begin after the July 4 holiday if Congress can’t pass new restrictions on asylum laws.
Holding Congress accountable to do its job is needed now more than ever as the conditions on the border continue to deteriorate. Not doing so is what got us into this mess in the first place and continued on for decades during the administrations of both Republican and Democrat presidents.