Inside the Columbus church where she's sought sanctuary for almost two years, Edith Espinal spoke out Wednesday about the nearly $500,000 fine she's been charged by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
NPR on Tuesday obtained government documents showing that the Trump administration has begun issuing expensive fines to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
Espinal received notice of her $497,777 fine in a letter dated last Tuesday, June 25. She's lived in Columbus for two decades, but took refuge at Columbus Mennonite Church in October 2017 to evade deportation by ICE.
“When I receive this letter, I feel mad because I don’t have this amount of money,” Espinal said. “And I don’t want to pay this amount because for me it’s very injustice.”
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) also spoke at the Wednsday press conference, held at the same church where Espinal has been living. She outlined what she wrote in response to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“I told him that this is deplorable and I am shocked that he would do something like this,” Beatty said. “These fines are excessive and they violate both the spirit and the intent of our nation’s immigration laws.”
In an emailed statement, Faith in Public Life’s Michelle Nealy said Espinal’s fine notice charges her with violating a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
“My days in here is very difficult,” Espinal said to community members. “Thank you everybody for being here. Always you are here for my family.”
It is unknown how many undocumented immigrants received a similar fine. NPR says ICE began issuing the notices in December on a case-by-case basis.
President Trump has threatened recently to carry out immigration raids across the country, targeting migrant families who have received deportation orders.