LOS ANGELES - Undocumented immigrants who were issued removal orders by the Trump administration could be fined half a million dollars for failing to leave the country.
The Department of Homeland Security issued notices to undocumented immigrants and ordered them to pay fines as high as $500,000 for failing to follow removal orders. NPR obtained one notice where a woman was fined $497,777 based on a removal order from October 2016.
Officials said in a statement that the Immigration and Nationality Act allows the agency the right to impose fines on undocumented immigrants who were ordered the U.S. The agency fines each person no more than $500 a day for violating that section of the act, which is listed as section 274D on the notice.
The official went on to say that undocumented immigrants who receive the fine notice have 30 days to respond or a decision will be made on whether to move forward with fines.
The agency began issuing notices in December 2018, according to the ICE statement.
The Washington Post reported that another woman in North Carolina received a notice for fines totaling more than $300,000, while an immigrant in Colorado may be fined more than $500,000.
But ICE officials said amounts associated with people who chose to leave voluntarily and failed to do so are set at $3,000, which is "adjusted for inflation unless an immigration judge set a lower or higher fine."
ICE officials said they could not provide an accurate number on how many notices have been sent because "many are pending appeal and the agency has not been able to confirm receipt of others,"
Federal officials told The Post that the December notices began quietly in an effort to stop sanctuary cities that raised issues with Trump's plans to crack down on illegal immigration.
According to The Post, ICE is issuing fines not just for undocumented immigrants who did not leave following removal orders, but those who agreed to leave the country voluntarily but did not.
"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," the statement from ICE said, in part.
The statement added that the decision to issue the notices is determined on a "case-by-case basis, taking into account steps the (immigrant) has taken to faithfully meet the obligation of their removal order or voluntary departure."
News of the notices comes as immigration sweeps targeting about 2,000 migrants in 10 cities who did not follow removal orders looms. The planned raids were scheduled earlier this month, but were delayed until after the July 4th weekend so that Congress could come up with a "solution to the asylum and loophole problems" at the border, according to President Donald Trump's tweet.
Trump is also looking to roll back protections for undocumented family members of active-duty troops from being deported. The program, which is called parole in place, gave military members peace of mind while serving. But various government lawyers said they received notice that the benefits wouldn't be available anymore within the next month.