RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Abbie Arevalo-Herrera, a woman living in sanctuary in a Richmond church, received a letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement ordering she pay a fine 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.’
According to ICE, the fines started last December and are set at $799 a day due to inflation.
“At the beginning, I couldn’t believe the amount of money they were asking me to pay,” Arevalo-Herrera said.
Arevalo-Herrera is facing $295,630.00 in fines.
The 31-year-old has been living at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond for just over a year. With the deadline to appeal approaching, the Honduran woman says she worries she will be sent back to her home country.
Almost six years ago, Arevalo-Herrera fled her home of 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 child behind.
“I needed to protect my life,” Arevalo-Herrera added.
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.
Her attorney has until Friday, July, 26 to appeal the fine. Arevalo-Herrera is currently waiting for a visa to have her immigration case reopened.
The United States no longer allows domestic violence as a reason for asylum.
Arevalo-Herrera’s attorney told 8News that the fine could end up before the immigration board of appeals and potentially federal court.