RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Abbie Arevalo-Herrera, a woman living in sanctuary in a Richmond church, received a ‘notice of intent to fine’ letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement for nearly $300,000.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been handing out ‘notice of intention to fine’ letters to undocumented immigrants across the county.
ICE said in an email to 8News that they have the authority to ‘impose civil fines on aliens who have been ordered removed or granted voluntary departure and fail to depart the United States.’
The 31-year-old has been living at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond for just over a year.
The fines started last December and are set at $799 a day due to inflation, ICE said.
Arevalo-Herrera received a letter saying, ‘it is the intention of ICE to order you pay a fine in the amount of $295,630.00.’
“At the beginning, I couldn’t believe the amount of money they were asking me to pay,” Arevalo-Herrera said.
According to ICE, Arevalo-Hererra has one month to respond to the notice before a formal decision whether to issue a fine is set.
With the deadline to appeal approaching, the Honduran woman said she worries she will be sent back to her home country.
ICE is prepared to use various enforcement methods – including arrest; detention; technological monitoring; and financial penalties – to enforce U.S. immigration laws.
Almost six years ago, Arevalo-Herrera left her home in Honduras with her daughter, fleeing her abusive partner.
“I lived for eight years being a victim of domestic violence,” Arevalo-Herrera said.
Arevalo-Herrera told 8News that she feared her partner would kill her and their daughter.
“I felt terrorized,” Arevalo-Herrera said.
Arevalo-Herrera had two children with her then partner in Honduras. As the violence only got worse Arevalo-Herrera said she fled the country with her eldest daughter, leaving a young child behind because she said she worried they would not survive the journey to the U.S.
“I needed to protect my life,” Arevalo-Herrera added.
The United States no longer allows domestic violence as a reason for asylum. The Honduran woman was captured by border agents in Texas.
“It was about two days that I was in a small cage,” Arevalo-Herrera said.
She was then sent to a shelter before her family helped move her to Virginia. At the time she was given a notice to appear in court but it left out a date and time.
Facing deportation, Abbie Arevalo-Herrera sought asylum at a church. Now her livelihood is being threatened by ICE’s intention to fine the Honduran woman hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Arevalo-Herrera’s attorney, Alina Kilpatrick told 8News that when Arevalo-Herrera learned she had an order of removal she sought legal help. But her lawyer botched the job.
“The law requires any time you file a motion to re-open you attach any relief you are seeking to the motion,” Kilpatrick said. “Her attorney didn’t do that.”
Arevalo-Herrera’s asylum application was sent somewhere else, Kilpatrick said. So the judge denied it.
“You only get one shot,” Kilpatrick said. “Her first shot was blown.”
According to Kilpatrick, her second attorney filed another motion to re-open and it did not contain a notice of her hearing and the conditions in Honduras. Again, it was denied.
It’s really hard to overcome bad legal work,” Kilpatrick said.
Abbie Arevalo-Herrera’s husband is a lawful permanent U.S. resident. He and Arevalo-Herrera have one child together, who he frequently visits at the church.
Because of his status, Arevalo-Herrera’s second lawyer applied for a U.S. Visa.
However, if Arevalo-Herrera receives the U.S. Visa she is still facing a deportation order. She would have to go back to Honduras for five years.
“She won’t last five years,” Kilpatrick said. “We can’t do anything with her Visa until the case is re-open.”
In regards to the fine, Kilpatrick has until Friday, July, 26 to appeal. She says it’s a violation of the 8th Amendment:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Kilpatrick told 8News that the fine could end up before the immigration board of appeals and potentially federal court.