Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday rescinded a nearly half-million dollar fine against Edith Espinal, an undocumented immigrant who has been living inside a church in Columbus, Ohio, in order to avoid deportation, according to advocate groups.
ICE also withdrew fines for six other women who were living inside churches across the country to avoid deportation, according to the National Sanctuary Collective.
The fines drew national attention earlier this year and spawned legislation to grant Espinal deportation relief. ICE began issuing notices of its intent to fine migrants last December following President Donald Trump’s executive order, issued a year earlier, instructing the agency to begin collecting fines from migrants unlawfully in the US.
Richard Rocha, a spokesperson for ICE, said in a statement that Espinal and the others are still violating the law.
“These individuals are subject to final orders of removal and they remain in the United States in violation of law,” he said. “ICE will pursue enforcement of these removal orders using any and all available means, and has reserved the right to reassess fines in these cases. ICE remains committed to utilizing this enforcement tool, as provided by Congress, which serves an important role in promoting compliance with our immigration laws.”
In a letter received by the families, ICE wrote, “Following consideration of matters you forwarded for ICE review, and in the exercise of discretion under applicable regulations, ICE hereby withdraws the Notice of Intention to Fine,” according to the National Sanctuary Collective.
“We knew that these exorbitant fines were illegal and nothing more than a tool to scare our clients and retaliate against them for fighting back and standing up to this administration,” said Lizbeth Mateo, Espinal’s attorney.
In July, CNN reported that Espinal, a Mexican national, had received a letter from ICE notifying her that it intended to fine her for staying in the US illegally over several years and failing to follow orders to leave the country, her attorney said at the time.