Georgia Geen, Executive Editor
A woman living in the basement of a Richmond church to avoid deportation to Honduras says she is being fined almost $300,000 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, representative of a nationwide trend targeting immigrants who don’t comply with deportation orders.
Abbie Arevalo began living in sanctuary with two of her three children in the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond in June 2018 after she was ordered deported. She fled her home country after experiencing years of domestic violence at the hands of an ex-partner and was forced to leave behind her youngest daughter. She says returning to Honduras would be a death sentence.
Arevalo received a letter from ICE informing her of the fine, which amounts to $295,630, advocacy organization Hands Off Abbie told The Commonwealth Times.
“When I got the letter, I couldn’t even read the number,” Arevalo said through an interpreter in a live Facebook broadcast on Friday night. “The amount of money they’re fining me, it’s so much. I’ve never even seen that amount of money.”
The Washington Post reported last month that while financial penalties for disobeying deportation orders have been in place for some time, they were rarely given out. One type of fine imposes up to $799 each day that an immigrant has an outstanding deportation order.
“It’s difficult to trust strangers, but at the same time, we need your support and help,” Arevalo said. “We have a humanitarian crisis.”
Last week, a Guatemalan woman living in sanctuary in Charlottesville announced ICE sent her a fine of more than $214,000. The Daily Progress reported neither Maria Chavalan Sut, nor the church where she is living has the means to pay the fine.
Arevalo said she feels she has a responsibility to share her experiences with the public.
“There are others who come, and their journey ends on the road,” Arevalo said.
“Or their journey ends on the river in an attempt to cross the border,” she continued, referencing the father and daughter from El Salvador who died in an attempt to cross the Rio Grande into Texas. “And they die on that attempt.”