Illegal Immigrants Face Huge Fines For Ignoring Deportation Orders

July 9, 2019 by Dan McCue
Jorge Field of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations walks on his way to raid and apprehend an immigrant without legal status who may be deportable on Aug. 12, 2015 in Riverside, Calif. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Disputes over illegal immigration are heating up as some long-time foreign residents of the United States who ignored court deportation orders received notice they are liable for hefty fines this week.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began issuing fines on July 2. Some of them run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to immigrant advocacy organizations.

ICE claims authority to impose the fines from President Donald Trump’s January 2017 executive order that directed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to “issue guidance and promulgate regulations” to facilitate the “assessment and collection of all fines and penalties” from immigrants residing without authorization in the United States.

ICE is overseen by the Homeland Security Department.

The legal precedent for the fines is derived from the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. The law streamlined deportation procedures into a single removal proceeding, authorized the construction of barriers along the border and allowed fines against illegal immigrants.

The standard fine for immigrants who do not leave when ordered is $3,000. A judge can amend the fine based on differing circumstances.

If immigrants ignore the deportation order and original fine, they can be fined as much as $799 per day, adjusted for inflation.

“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,” the agency said in a statement.

ICE started issuing notices of its intent to fine illegal immigrants in December. The immigrants are given 30 days to respond to the notices before a fine can be assessed.

Many of the notices are being appealed through immigration courts.

Meanwhile, protesters tried to ratchet up political pressure on ICE with a demonstration in front of its Washington, D.C. headquarters the day after the Fourth of July celebrations.

The nonprofit advocacy group Court Appointed Special Advocates led protesters in urging ICE to end deportations of non-criminals and to stop family separations.

Despite protests, the Trump administration has given no indication it will ease up on a planned crackdown on illegal immigration. Raids by ICE on illegal immigrants — including families — originally were planned to begin two weeks ago in 10 major cities.

Trump postponed them until after the Fourth of July to give Congress another chance to reach an agreement to reform immigration policy.

In a separate move, the Trump administration plans to replace court interpreters for immigration hearings with videos to inform persons facing deportation about their rights. Government officials say the videos are intended to cut costs and speed up the hearing process as immigration courts struggle with a backlog of cases.

Civil rights advocates say videos instead of interpreters could interfere with immigrants’ rights to procedural due process.

The Justice Department told judges the videos would be used only for “master calendar” hearings in which immigrants are informed of their rights and their cases are scheduled for a court’s docket.

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