ICE INTENDING TO ASSESS THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN FINES ON SOME UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Trump administration wants to take adverse action against undocumented immigrants. The latest such example is in the area of financial penalties. Following an executive order by President Trump, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is intending to assess thousands of dollars in fines on some undocumented immigrants.
Shortly after taking office, on January 25, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order authorizing “the assessment and collection of all fines and penalties that the Secretary is authorized under the law to assess and collect from aliens unlawfully present in the United States”. ICE began issuing “Notices of Intention to Fine” (which provide a 30-day period to respond before a formal decision whether to issue a fine is made) to some undocumented immigrants last December. ICE spokesperson Matthew Bourke stated, “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”.
According to ICE, undocumented immigrants who fail to voluntarily depart the United States are subject to a $3,000 fine, unless an immigration judge sets a different amount; undocumented immigrants who do not comply with a final order of deportation from an immigration judge are subject to a fine of no more than $799 per day.
What is especially noteworthy recently is the huge amount of these fines for some undocumented immigrants. In one example, in a letter dated June 25, Edith Espinal-Moreno was advised that “[i]t is the intention of ICE to order you pay a fine in the amount of $497,777”. Espinal-Moreno, a mother of 3 children living in sanctuary at an Ohio church since an immigration judge ordered her removed 2 years ago, stated, “They want to scare me . . . because they know I am in sanctuary. And they know I don’t have this amount of money”. Espinal-Moreno’s attorney, Lizbeth Mateo, added, “It’s almost half a million dollars. Are they for real? Do they really think that she’s going to pay this? . . . I laughed, because there has to be someone in some basement in D.C. thinking, ‘Oh, what else can I do to mess with immigrants? What else can I do to hurt them?’”.
In another example, Rosa Ortez Cruz, a mother of 4 children living in a Chapel Hill, North Carolina church, received a June 25 “Notice of Intention to Fine” letter for a fine of $314,007. Ortez Cruz’s lawyer, Jeremy McKinney, stated, “Over $300,000 being assessed against a person that has nothing? It might as well be a million dollars. It might as well be a billion dollars . . . She has nothing of monetary value at this point. She is unemployed. She lives in a church”.
While ICE contends that it has the authority to issue these fines under longstanding provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, immigration lawyers cannot recall prior administrations assessing such huge fines. Leon Fresco, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Immigration Litigation in the Obama administration, stated, “It’s a vivid illustration of the lengths the Trump administration will go to use any available authority to try to enforce immigration law . . . I have not seen a $300,000 fine for failing to facilitate one’s own removal”.
Even if these fines cannot ultimately be collected, many believe that the Trump administration is threatening to assess the fines to instill fear and confusion in immigrant communities and encourage undocumented immigrants to leave the country. Thus, the assessment of fines is consistent with other policies of the Trump administration to create a hostile environment for undocumented immigrants in the United States. Under these circumstances, immigrants need the support of attorneys who have a long track record of success in handling immigration law matters for their clients, such as the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates. If you are being assessed fines based on your “undocumented immigrant” status, or have any other immigration issue, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000, for representation.