DENVER – Two undocumented immigrants currently living in sanctuary in churches in the Denver area have been threatened by the Trump administration with fines of thousands of dollars in civil penalties for disobeying their deportation orders.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Washington, D.C. headquarters sent the notifications to the two immigrants and several others across the country earlier this week.
One of the immigrants living in Colorado faces a fine of approximately $500,000 while the other faces a potential fine of $4,700, Contact7 Investigates has learned. The Washington Post first publicly reported the notice of the larger fine on Tuesday.
Jennifer Piper, with immigrant rights group American Friends Service Committee, confirmed Tuesday evening that Ingrid Encalada Latorre was one of the immigrants who received a notice. Piper said Latorre received the notice on July 1, adding that she believed initially the fine was "exceptionally large" but realizing after reports on Tuesday that "it's one of the smaller fines being charged," Piper said.
Latorre said in a statement the fines were "unconscionable."
"We’ve never seen an administration add a fine onto the punishment of deportation, which is already inhumane. After 3 years of no word from them they send me this letter with only 30 days to pay and it’s a lot of money for me. Really I will not get any benefit from this money, not a work permit or residency. What they want to do with these letters is to intimidate us and scare us, it’s unjust what they are doing here," Latorre said. "This Administration is using new tactics every day and this is just the latest. I’m not the only or the last one who will receive this fine. It’s not just me, it’s the whole community. We need to be prepared for what is coming next, because the Administration is not done yet. It will get even worse likely before it gets better. They keep closing doors on us, more and more. Punishing our children and those that are in cages at the border. It’s something that hurts so deeply to see our community’s children dirty, unfed, caged and without proper care, being denied asylum and sent back.”
“If you are a person a faith or conscience, the time to act is now. The time to stand up and take risks for what is right is now. This is not the last or worst plan the Administration has in store for our loved ones," Piper added.
ICE is allowed under the Immigration and Nationality Act to impose civil fines against immigrants who have been ordered to be removed or who have been granted voluntary departure and do not leave the country, its headquarters said.
Immigrants who have already been ordered deported face fines of up to $799 per day for each day they stay beyond their removal date, while immigrants who have been told to voluntarily depart typically face a penalty of $3,000, according to ICE.
But ICE has to issue the immigrants a Notice of Intention to Fine first, after which the immigrant has 30 days to respond and argue why they should not be fined. After that, an ICE headquarters supervisor determines if the notice to fine was issued properly and will then make a decision along with the local field office director – though the person being fined can also appeal that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
If they do not respond to the notice, the civil penalty cannot be appealed and the penalty will count as a formal debt to the U.S. government and Treasury Department, an ICE spokesperson said.
The notices went out this week after President Trump pushed back immigration raids that would have targeted people with removal orders, which riled the immigrant community here and their supporters.
The Washington Post reports that federal officials started looking into the civil penalties in December. He first discussed enforcing penalties, which have been in place since the Clinton administration, shortly after taking office as he and his administration threatened so-called “sanctuary cities.”
A representative for one of the Colorado immigrants who received a notice said they would speak more about it next week. Several of the undocumented immigrants in Colorado who have received final deportation orders have sought sanctuary in churches or spaces owned by churches, where immigration officials have been hesitant and mostly reluctant to enforce orders.
Immigration lawyers said it’s unlikely the fines would be paid and told The Washington Post the administration was pressing further to threaten immigrants.