Undocumented Immigrants & Departure Fines

A recent announcement brings relief to undocumented immigrants throughout the country, as they will no longer face fines for failure to depart.

Thousands of undocumented immigrants are told to leave the country every day, but some of these individuals never leave the United States. For decades, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has had the authority to fine these individuals for failure to depart, but the agency did not start enforcing those fines until 2018.

It was at that time then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enforce the collection of fines and all other penalties for undocumented immigrants who did not depart the country. Individuals who facilitated undocumented immigrants living in the country could also face fines. In an announcement made in April of 2021, the DHS stated they would no longer issue fines, or enforce collection, for failure to depart.

The Former Fines Were Ineffective

Although Trump signed the executive order ensuring the enforcement of fines for failure to depart, it did not make news until 2019. At that time, ICE stated that they used many methods of enforcement, including monetary fines. However, it was later found that the policy was ineffective. ICE stated the agency was able to only collect approximately 1% of the fines issued.

The fines also placed undocumented immigrants under undue hardship. Individuals who did not voluntarily depart faced a fine of $3,000. Undocumented immigrants who failed to comply with a court order incurred up to $799 in fines every day. The fines themselves were simply too difficult for individuals to pay, as they quickly increased to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Immigration advocates were quick to denounce the use and enforcement of fining undocumented immigrants as unfair and retaliation for the sanctuary movement. This movement involves immigrants using houses of worship to seek refuge from immigration officials.

The New Policy

Now that the Department of Homeland Security has announced fines will no longer be issued or enforced, many are wondering what immigration efforts will take their place. The Biden Administration has greatly narrowed their focus on undocumented immigrants.

According to an executive order President Biden signed shortly after he took office, the focus will now be placed on unlawful immigrants who pose a threat to the public safety, national security, or border security. For example, if an undocumented immigrant had a criminal history, that individual would most likely be pursued by ICE rather than someone who failed to depart but did not pose a risk to public safety.

Our Tennessee Immigration Lawyers Can Help with Your Case

If you have violated a court order to depart the country, or you have been approached by ICE, do not hesitate to contact our Nashville immigration lawyers at Ozment Law, PLC. The immigration laws in the country are always changing, and we will explain the latest developments and how they apply to your case. Call us today at 615-321-8888 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys and to learn more about the options available to you.