Nine illegal immigrants who spoke publicly about their experience evading deportation and the alleged injustices they experienced face fines of up to a cumulative $3 million by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Statesman reported Thursday.
One of the illegal immigrants, Hilda Ramirez, reportedly left Guatemala because of domestic violence and has since resided at a church in Austin, Texas, with her 14-year-old son for four years, the Statesman reported. The first fine Ramirez received from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was for $303,620 during the summer of 2019, she later received a second fine totaling around $59,000.
“When I first entered the U.S. seeking refuge, immigration put me and my son in an ice-cold cell without any blankets, in unsanitary conditions, in the middle of the night. Next, ICE took us to a family detention center, and we survived that and eventually made our way to a church asking for help,” Ramirez said.
ICE detains 172 undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities https://t.co/LFb4E24lPR
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) October 16, 2020
A heavily redacted email sent on June 27, 2019, by an unnamed ICE official details a Guatemalan immigrant around Austin was notified of an intention to fine the individual $303,620, though it does not name Ramirez. (RELATED: ICE Arrests Over 125 Illegal Immigrants Who Were Released Under California Sanctuary Policies, Report Says)
The email says that ICE “sent out nine ‘notice of intention to fine’ for sanctuary cases” that were approved by the Director’s office. “Because each of these cases has already had high media interest, and because 8 of the 9 appear to have attorneys, I wanted to be sure you are aware of the situation.”
“Now we learn ICE was surveilling us to punish me with fines for speaking against the injustices,” Ramirez said, according to a statement from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), who released the email on Thursday. “Finally, it’s coming to light.”
The nine illegal immigrants are facing possible fines because they “made clear their intention to continue non-compliance with their departure orders,” according to the email. The proposed fines add up to a total of $3,066,560.
“I am an Indigenous woman. Under a system which denies my fundamental rights, I am a survivor. I remind ICE that they are on stolen, invaded, Indigenous land. I do not owe ICE anything – they are the ones who owe reparations for their injustices,” María Chavalan Sut said, according to the CCR. Sut has reportedly lived in sanctuary for two years in Charlottesville, Virginia.
One immigrant’s lawyer, David Bennion, said, “ICE’s retaliatory attempt to issue fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars against immigrant community leaders living in sanctuary churches violated their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” the Statesman reported.
The ICE email was sent to at least four people, including ICE Executive Associate Director of Enforcement Operations Henry “Enrique” Lucero, ICE Phoenix Outreach Spokesperson Yasmeen Pitts Okeefe told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Friday.
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