Immigration and Customs Enforcement will no longer issue fines to undocumented immigrants who have failed to depart the United States, the agency announced Friday, a reversal from the Trump-era policy that threatened immigrants with thousands of dollars in debt to the federal government.
ICE officials said the agency rescinded the two Trump-era orders on the collection of financial penalties after determining the policy to be “ineffective,” and that it intends to cancel fines already issued to undocumented immigrants.
The move, one of several shifts away from the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies, is part of the Biden administration’s effort to narrow the scope of immigration enforcement.
“There is no indication that these penalties promoted compliance with noncitizens’ departure obligations,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “We can enforce our immigration laws without resorting to ineffective and unnecessary punitive measures.”
ICE ceased issuing these fines as of January 20, and Friday’s announcement formalizes the policy change.
ICE began notifying some undocumented immigrants of the intent to file fines in December 2018, following then-President Donald Trump’s executive order calling on the Department of Homeland Security to “ensure the assessment and collection of all fines and penalties” from people unlawfully present in the United States and from those who facilitate their presence in the country.
In July 2019, when news of the fines drew national attention, an ICE spokesperson said the agency was “committed to using various enforcement methods,” including financial penalties, “to enforce US immigration law and maintain the integrity of legal orders issued by judges.”
ICE has had the authority to assess financial penalties to individuals for failing to depart for more than 20 years, but the agency did not initiate enforcement of these penalties until 2018, according to ICE.
Ultimately, leveling fines against undocumented immigrants proved unsuccessful, as the agency was able to collect only around 1% of the issued fines, according to an ICE official.
By Geneva Sands for CNN
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