Trump admin issues notices of $500K fines for immigrants in US illegally: NPR

The Trump administration is considering imposing fines up to $500,000 for immigrants who have been ordered to leave the U.S., NPR reported Tuesday.

NPR obtained a batch of notices sent by the Department of Homeland Security to targeted individuals ordering them to pay fines for "failing to depart the U.S. as previously agreed."

"It is the intention of ICE to order you pay a fine in the amount of $497,777," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer Lisa Hoechst wrote to Edith Espinal Moreno in a letter dated June 25, 2019, obtained by NPR from Moreno's lawyers.

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The letter comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE plans to step up ICE raids to deport illegal immigrants after the Fourth of July.

In 2017, Trump signed an executive order that promised the government would begin collection of "all fines and penalties that the Secretary is authorized under the law to assess and collect from aliens unlawfully present in the United States."

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, ICE can impose fines "on aliens who have been ordered removed or granted voluntary departure and fail to depart the United States."

It states fines of no more than $500 for each day the person is in violation of this section. 

Experts told NPR that they have never heard of that code being used in the way it is in the notices sent to immigrants.

Leon Fresco, who served as deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Immigration Litigation under former President Obama, told NPR he could not recall a time when such high fines were used during the previous administration.

"It's a vivid illustration of the lengths the Trump administration will go to use any available authority to try to enforce immigration law," Fresco said. "I have not seen a $300,000 fine for failing to facilitate one's own removal."

Espinal's attorney, Lizbeth Mateo, said she started laughing when she saw the letter.

"It's almost half a million dollars. Are they for real? Do they really think that she's going to pay this?" Mateo said. "I laughed, because there has to be someone in some basement in D.C. thinking, 'Oh, what else can I do to mess with immigrants? What else can I do to hurt them?'"

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on NPR's report.