Things That Matter

Trump Targeted Migrants With Fines Of Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars But Now Those Fines Have Been Reversed

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have canceled fines received by undocumented immigrants living in sanctuary conditions, ranging from $300,000 to $500,000. According to NPR, the fine withdrawals are a turning point for the Trump Administration. 

In 2017, President Trump filed an executive order to begin fining undocumented immigrants, declaring “all fines and penalties that the Secretary is authorized under the law to assess and collect from aliens unlawfully present in the United States,” should be retrieved. 

ICE claims that under the Immigration and Nationality Act the agency has the right to collect “civil fines on aliens who have been ordered removed or granted voluntary departure and fail to depart the United States.”

Trump Administration withdraws fines up to $500,000 for at least five undocumented immigrants. 

The Natural Sanctuary Collective, which works with undocumented families, says that five undocumented immigrants living in sanctuary conditions have received notices that they no longer owe hefty fines. Edith Espinal Moreno has been living in an Ohio church for over two years and received a letter from ICE in June claiming she owed $497,000 for “failing to depart the U.S. as previously agreed.” However, last week Espinal received another notice withdrawing that same fine. 

“Following consideration of matters you forwarded for ICE review, and in the exercise of its discretion under applicable regulations, ICE hereby withdraws the Notice of Intention to Fine,” Lisa Hoechst, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, wrote in the letter to Espinal. 

The Immigration and Nationality Act allows fines of no more than $500 a day for undocumented immigrants who have been ordered removed or granted voluntary to departure but fail to leave the U.S. 

This is a small victory for undocumented immigrants. 

“This is a victory,” Espinal told NPR. She expressed that she found it unbelievable that the U.S. government thought she would be able to pay a fine of nearly half a million dollars. Espinal came to the United States from Mexico with her father when she was 16. Today she has three children, two of whom are United States citizens.

“They want to scare me,” Espinal told NPR. “Because they know I am in sanctuary. And they know I don’t have this amount of money.”

The mother believes her life belongs in the United States and says she cannot go back to Mexico. Rightfully, Espinal has had the support of the congregation at the church she lives in along with the community. 

“For almost three years now these women in sanctuary have been on the front lines of taking on the Trump administration,” Mohammad Abdollahi, advocate with the National Sanctuary Collective, said. “This victory shows that the women in sanctuary are not only fighting for themselves but everybody. Others should stand up with them.”

Immigrant advocates believe the tactic is used to instill fear. 

The fines target immigrants who have “overstayed” in the United States, thus immigrant advocates believe the fines are used to instill fear and paranoia in immigrant communities that will eventually drive them out. 

“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 told NPR in July.

Former deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Immigration Litigation Leon Fresco said he could not think of another time when ICE issued such high fines under the Obama administration when he worked there. 

“It’s a vivid illustration of the lengths the Trump administration will go to use any available authority to try to enforce immigration law,” Fresco said. “I have not seen a $300,000 fine for failing to facilitate one’s own removal.”

Espinal’s attorney continues to advocate for her. 

Lizbeth Mateo, Espinal’s attorney believes the fine is exorbitant and even laughed when she first saw the fee. 

“It’s almost half a million dollars. Are they for real? Do they really think that she’s going to pay this?” Mateo said. “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?’ “

Mateo suspects the fines are not only intended to cause “self-deportation” by scaring immigrants, but that ICE may also belaying the foundation for future criminal penalties. ICE did not give a clear reason as to why fines were dropped for some but not for others, only that they were reviewing individuals on a case by case basis to see if they’ve fulfilled court orders. 

“We know we have strong legal arguments and ICE recognizes that, even if they claim that this decision was based only on discretion,” Mateo said in a statement. “But even if that were the case, ICE has demonstrated with this that they have the power to exercise discretion — the same way they can use discretion to drop these fines, they can use it to release the sanctuary families.”

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ICE Admits It Made A Mistake In Deporting This Guatemalan Man So Why Hasn’t He Been Brought Back?

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ICE Admits It Made A Mistake In Deporting This Guatemalan Man So Why Hasn’t He Been Brought Back?

JOHAN ORDONEZ / Getty Images

Although the Coronavirus pandemic poses special risks to migrants who are returned to their countries – as well as the communities they’re put back into – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to deport migrants by the thousands.

There have been several reports of deportees spreading Covid-19 back in their communities after being removed from the U.S., which makes sense considering the U.S. is leading the world in Covid-19 infections.

However, ICE has admitted that they made a mistake with one recent deportation, when they removed a man who was legally awaiting his asylum process.

A Guatemalan man was wrongfully deported and ICE admits it was their mistake.

A 29-year-old Guatemalan man seeking asylum in the U.S. was mistakenly deported by authorities despite the lack of a deportation order – and worse, before he even had his first appointment in immigration court.

César Marroquín was deported August 19 – the same day he he was supposed to appear for the first time before an immigration judge. Instead, he was sent back to Guatemala – with dozens of other deportees – the country from which he fled after being the victim of aggression and kidnapping, according to his account.

“They told me that if I didn’t get on the plane, I’d be charged,” Marroquín told Noticias Telemundo. “There was some mistake with me in the system.”

His current attorney, Marty Rosenbluth, believes it is a flagrant error. “I’ve seen quite a few cases of people who were deported in error. I’ve never seen one quite like this where they were deported even before their first hearing, “ he told NBC News.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, said in a statement that Marroquín’s deportation was due to an “administrative error” while his case was still open.

Despite their mistake, Marroquín remains in Guatemala.

Although the mistake lay completely with U.S. ICE agents, Marroquín remains in his native Guatemala at risk of further persecution.

According to Marroquín’s official complaint filed in Guatemala, he said he suffered political persecution and physical violence after he supported a local politician and turned down a request to work with a rival one. After that, he said he was threatened and his home was damaged and raided; he also suspects someone tampered with his car. Marroquín said he was then kidnapped at gunpoint, tortured for several days and then left on the side of the road. He decided to leave the country after that and sought asylum protections in the United States.

The authorities and Marroquín’s attorney are now working on his readmission to the United States.

“This type of gross negligence is completely inexcusable,” said Rosenbluth, his current attorney. “The law is very, very clear that they can’t deport someone in the middle of their immigration court proceedings. They’re just not allowed to do it.”

Of course, not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time the immigration agency has made a mistake in deportations.

In 2018, ICE made a similar mistake with an undocumented inmate at a New Hampshire jail. ICE agents violated an appeals court order and deported the man back to El Salvador, where he lost 60 pounds and was subject to starvation, beatings, and overcrowding, according to the American Civil Liberties Union-New Hampshire, which represents the man.

“This is a very serious matter to us,” said Scott Grant Stewart, a deputy assistant U.S. attorney general, who appeared before a three-judge panel to explain the error. “We’re sorry for the violation of the court’s order. This was inadvertent. We do acknowledge the error.”

In fact, there are thousands of documented cases of U.S. citizens being deported by ICE.

According to a Northwestern University political scientist, Jacqueline Stevens, more than 1,500 U.S. citizens have spent time in immigration detention or even been deported between 2007 and 2015. More recent examples abound of the U.S. government detaining citizens after falsely accusing them of breaking immigration laws.

ICE authorities reportedly detained for three days Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a veteran born in Grand Rapids, Michigan who served with the Marines in Afghanistan, in 2018 because the agency did not believe he was born here.

ICE also detained for more than three weeks a man named Peter Brown who was born in Philadelphia and lived in the Florida Keys in 2018 because the agency confused him with an undocumented Jamaican immigrant – who was also named Peter Brown.

In 2007, the government settled a lawsuit arising from ICE’s detention of 6-year-old Kebin Reyes. ICE detained the California-born child for 10 hours when it picked up his undocumented father, even though his father immediately handed the authorities Reyes’ U.S. passport to prove the boy’s citizenship. And Justice Department records obtained by the Los Angeles Times indicate that a 10-year-old boy from San Francisco was mistakenly held in immigration detention in Texas for two months, according to his lawyer.

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Undocumented Residents Could Be Excluded From The 2020 Census After All, Thanks To New Supreme Court Case

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Undocumented Residents Could Be Excluded From The 2020 Census After All, Thanks To New Supreme Court Case

Phil Roeder / Getty Images

The drama over the 2020 Census continues.

First, was a Supreme Court decision that found the Trump administration wasn’t being totally honest about it’s reasoning for including the citizenship question on the 2020 Census – so the court effectively removed the question from the census. 

Then, Trump tried to delay the constitutionally mandated census to give his administration more time to come up with a better reason to tell the courts.

None of that worked as planned by the administration, and the Census has continued as normal. However, so many in minority communities – particularly migrant communities – have been fearful of completing this year’s census. Well, a new Supreme Court case could erase all the progress we made to make sure all residents – regardless of immigration status – were fairly counted.

The Supreme Court will hear a case that could allow the Trump Administration to exclude undocumented residents from Census data.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments next month over whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count used to apportion congressional districts to the 50 states.

The court’s announcement means that the court – which could soon have a 6-3 conservative majority – will hear arguments in the case on November 30.

In July, Trump issued a memorandum asking the Census Bureau to subtract undocumented immigrants from the count for the purposes of congressional apportionment — the reallocation of the nation’s 435 House districts every 10 years. Trump’s memo came after the Supreme Court had rejected his last minute efforts to add a citizenship question to the census.

By the time the high court hears this case, federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett could be confirmed as the ninth justice, cementing a conservative majority. Senate Republicans hope to confirm her nomination to the Supreme Court before the election on Nov. 3.

However, the U.S. Constitution explicitly calls for the counting of all residents within the country.

Credit: Tetra Images / Getty Images

The 14th Amendment requires districts to apportion congressional seats based on “counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.”

Since the first U.S. census in 1790, the numbers of U.S. residents who are counted to determine each state’s share of congressional seats have included both citizens and noncitizens, regardless of immigration status.

“President Trump has repeatedly tried — and failed — to weaponize the census for his attacks on immigrant communities. The Supreme Court rejected his attempt last year and should do so again,” said Dale Ho, a lead plaintiffs’ attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who successfully argued against the now-blocked citizenship question the administration wanted on the 2020 census forms.

Removing those immigrants from the population counts would shift power to less diverse states. A Pew Research Center study last year found that it could result in House seats that would otherwise be assigned to California, Florida and Texas going instead to Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio — each of which is set to possibly lose a House seat in the next decade due to population shifts.

And drawing new districts within the states based only on the counts of citizens and legal immigrants would likely benefit Republicans, shifting power from cities and immigrant communities to rural parts of the states, which vote for GOP candidates at higher rates

The announcement comes shortly after the court also allowed the Trump Administration to end the Census count early.

Earlier last week, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to stop the census count, blocking lower court orders that directed the count to continue through the end of the month. 

The decision, which the Trump administration favored, came with a candid dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor – the court’s only Latina justice.

“Meeting the deadline at the expense of the accuracy of the census is not a cost worth paying,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “Especially when the Government has failed to show why it could not bear the lesser cost of expending more resources to meet the deadline or continuing its prior efforts to seek an extension from Congress. This Court normally does not grant extraordinary relief on such a painfully disproportionate balance of harms.”

But it wasn’t long ago that Trump tried to completely derail this year’s census.

The Trump administration has decided to print the 2020 census forms without a citizenship question, and the printer has been told to start the printing process, Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco confirms to NPR.

The move came shortly after the Supreme Court ruled to keep the question off census forms for now and just a day after printing was scheduled to begin for 1.5 billion paper forms, letters, and other mailings.

President Trump had said he wanted to delay the constitutionally mandated headcount to give the Supreme Court a chance to issue a more “decisive” ruling on whether the administration could add the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” A majority of the justices found that the administration’s use of the Voting Rights Act to justify the question “seems to have been contrived.”

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