In another reversal from the anti-immigrant stance by the Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced April 23 that it will no longer threaten undocumented immigrants who refuse to leave the U.S. with punitive fines.
The policy put many immigrants thousands of dollars in debt to the federal government. However, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says there is no indication the penalties ever prompted compliance over departure orders.
ICE cancels previous fines
The announcement finalized a policy change, which began when President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20. Mayorkas adds that ICE will rescind all previously levied fines against undocumented immigrants under the previous administration.
Under the policy, ICE levied fines up to $799 per day against individuals who did not comply with deportation orders from immigration judges. Those who didn’t leave voluntarily faced a $3,000 fine. In one case, a woman who sought sanctuary inside an Ohio church received nearly $500,000 in penalties.
While those fines were ultimately dismissed, immigration advocates say the Trump-era policy unjustly targeted the sanctuary movement, which included using houses of worship as safe spaces for immigrants to avoid deportation.
The policy failed to achieve its stated goals
For two decades, ICE has had the authority to fine undocumented immigrants for refusing to obey departure orders. However, it was not enforced until the Trump administration implemented the policy in 2018.
ICE says there’s no evidence the hardline policy ever worked as the agency only collected about 1% of the issued fines. Under President Biden, arrests and deportations for undocumented immigrants have dropped significantly.