The government of President Donald Trump has resorted to imposing “huge fines” on the undocumented and uses them in retaliation against leaders of the movement of cities and states considered “sanctuary” for these immigrants, lawyers and activists denounced this Thursday.
“Nine people who have sought ‘sanctuary’ in churches in different parts of the United States and who cannot leave their temples for fear of deportation have each received fines of up to $ 500,000 imposed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) ”The groups reported in a statement.
These fines, which together exceed $ 3 million, “function to intimidate immigrants at sanctuaries across the country and at prayer sites that offer them‘ sanctuary, “the groups said.
Immigrant advocacy groups obtained ICE documents through legal actions started in February after that agency, the Treasury Department, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) did not respond to a Freedom of Information Act request filed in September 2019.
“These documents show how ICE targeted leaders of the sanctuary movement who have spoken openly about their cases, as a way to intimidate immigrants across the country,” said Katie Matejcak, of the Immigrant Rights Legal Clinic at the New York University.
According to Elena Hodges, from the same legal aid clinic, “ICE’s message to immigrant rights activists is clear: ‘keep quiet or we will see how to silence you.’
Hundreds of cities, counties, and states across the United States have adopted some form of “sanctuary” that basically consists of avoiding the collaboration of police and other local agencies with federal immigration authorities.
“The ‘sanctuary’ is an act of non-violent civil disobedience that has the purpose of redefining our relationship with others in the community,” said Peggy Morton, president of the Sanctuary Network in Austin, Texas.
“As people of faith and non-believers we have persisted in our values by giving support to the leaders of the sanctuary,” he added.
David Bennion, a spokesman for the Free Migration Project, argued that “ICE’s retaliatory attempt by issuing fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars against leaders of the immigrant community living in sanctuaries in churches violated their rights to freedom of expression and liberty. religious”.