ICE withdraws $500,000 fine for Columbus mother living in sanctuary at church

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Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has withdrawn a $500,000 fine against Edith Espinal, a woman who has sought sanctuary at a Columbus church since October 2017.

The fine was part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, according to her lawyer.

In a statement, her lawyer, Lizbeth Mateo, said, “We knew that these exorbitant fines were illegal and nothing more than a tool to scare our clients and retaliate against them for fighting back and standing up to this administration.”

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Mateo said a letter sent to families by ICE said, “following consideration of matters you forwarded for ICE review, and in the exercise of discretion under applicable regulations, ICE hereby withdraws the Notice of Intention to Fine.”

“We know we have strong legal arguments and ICE recognizes that even if they claim that this decision was based only on discretion. But even if that were the case, ICE has demonstrated with this that they have the power to exercise discretion -- the same way they can use discretion to drop these fines, they can use it to release the sanctuary families,” Mateo said.

Espinal is a mother of three who has sought safety in the church.

“To me this is an example of what speaking out and organizing can accomplish,” Espinal said in a statement

According to what an ICE spokesperson told the Columbus Dispatch, the act allows the agency to fine “aliens who have been ordered removed or granted voluntary departure and fail to depart the United States.”

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