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ICE Ends Fines for Undocumented Immigrants Who Fail to Depart the U.S.


In another recent policy reversal, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it would no longer issue fines to immigrants with no legal immigration status who remain in the U.S. past their departure dates. ICE also will cancel the fines that the federal government previously issued to these individuals under two Trump administration-era policies. ICE already had stopped issuing the fines on January 20, 2021. ICE's announcement formalized the discontinuation of the fines. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas justified the policy change as “ineffective,” stating that there was no indication that the fines caused immigrants to depart the U.S. on time. The fines also proved to be largely uncollectible, as the federal government ultimately collected only about one percent of the fines assessed.

Details of the DHS Fine Policy for Immigrants Present in the U.S.

In 2018, then-President Trump issued an executive order that directed the DHS to assess and collect all fines and penalties from people present in the U.S. with no legal immigration status. The order also advised DHS to assess fines on those individuals who facilitated the presence of immigrants with no legal status in the U.S. Although ICE has had the authority to assess financial penalties for 20 years, ICE officials never did so until December 2018.

Immigrants who failed to comply with deportation orders issued by immigration courts could face fines of up to $799 per day. Immigrants who failed to depart voluntarily were subject to a $3,000 fine. One immigrant, who had sought sanctuary in a church, received a notice of intent to assess a fine from ICE of almost $500,000. However, ICE later withdrew the fine assessed on the woman and those assessed on other women nationwide who had been living in churches to avoid deportation.

The fines were primarily seen as a scare tactic that ICE used primarily in high-profile cases or those with national media interest, like the women who sought sanctuary in churches. These fine amounts were often so high that it was unrealistic to think that the immigrants ever would pay them – especially after being deported to their home countries.

Other Significant Policy Changes Continue in the Early Days of Biden Administration

Eliminating these uncollectible and ineffective fines is only one of many policy changes that the Biden administration has made to reverse or counteract Trump administration policies that cracked down on immigration enforcement. Here are some other examples of actions that the Biden administration has taken to reverse Trump-era policies:

  • Reversed policy guidance that previously encouraged ICE agents to apprehend immigrants while they attended unrelated proceedings at local courthouses
  • Eliminated travel bans that affect travelers from predominantly Muslim countries
  • Declined to continue checking the immigration status of people picking up migrant children from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody
  • Reopened the country for legal immigration, which the Trump administration had drastically reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Raised the federal limit on refugee admissions from its lowest point in history, from 15,000 to 62,500, with an increase to 125,000 in FY 2022
  • Declined to implement the public charge rule, which would require immigrants to repay any public benefits they received and could be used to deny admission if immigrants were likely to receive public benefits
  • Ended the national security emergency that the Trump administration used to justify the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border
  • Suspended the program that forced immigrants to wait in Mexico until their U.S. immigration cases went to court.

As the Biden administration continues to work through existing immigration policies and rules adopted over the past four years, more changes are expected. Keeping ahead of these changes is vital to understand how they potentially can impact your immigration case and those of your loved ones.

Contact Us Today for Legal Assistance with Your Immigration Case

The Bashyam Shah Immigration Law Group limits its practice solely to immigration matters. This focus allows us to concentrate our efforts on keeping abreast of the ever-changing immigration law and policy world. We are here to represent your interests, no matter whether you need help with getting an employment-based visa, bringing a loved one to the U.S., or defending against deportation. Call us today at (919) 833-0840 and see what we can do for you.