NEW YORK – A collective of immigrant rights groups has a lawsuit on Wednesday seeking answers about how the Trump administration decided to target sanctuary leaders with six-figure fines.
In the summer of 2019, a number of high-profile activists in sanctuary—all women who fled persecution in their countries of origin—were notified of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s intent to seek hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines from each of them.
These notices were abruptly withdrawn, only to be re-issued several months later. The Freedom Of Information Act sought documents concerning this unprecedented spate of civil fines against people who have chosen to take sanctuary while pursuing their legal remedies to remain in the U.S.
“It is so painful to have to continue to endure attacks from ICE when all I want is to be free. These fines couldn’t have been anything other than retaliation for the love and support that I have received from my community here in Austin, TX,” said Hilda Ramirez, an activist and leader of Austin Sanctuary Network who has lived in sanctuary in an Austin, Texas church since 2016. “Behind closed doors, ICE officials have admitted they are targeting me for political reasons, but then they deny it publicly. It is time that ICE tells us exactly why they are targeting me and other women who are in sanctuary,” continued Ramirez. Ramirez was one of a handful of sanctuary leaders who received such an “intent to fine” notice in 2019.