DHS Formalizes Policy: No More Collection of Civil Financial Penalties for “Failure-to-Depart”

On April 23rd, 2021, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is officially rescinding civil financial penalties for so-called ‘failure-to-depart’ violations. It is an important step in the right direction from creating a more equitable immigration system. In this blog post, our Los Angeles immigration law firm explains what you should know about the policy change from DHS.

No More Collection of ‘Failure-to-Depart’ Fines

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas ordered the rescission of two previous policy guidelines that required federal agencies to impose and collect civil fines against people cited for “failure-to-depart” by ICE or DHS. Notably, these fines were significant for many people. Under the previous rules, a non-citizen cited for failure to depart the United States in a timely manner could be charged a fine between $1,000 and $5,000. In the statement announcing the policy change Secretary Mayorkas called the fines “ineffective and unnecessary punitive measures.

Note: Failure to depart still subjects a non-citizen to potential immigration sanctions. In some cases, it could even result in a ten-year bar to immigration relief. Nonetheless, neither ICE nor DHS will continue to impose or collect civil financial penalties.

The Trump Administration Changes the Rules in 2018

Technically, ICE has had the authority to issue fines for a non-citizens ‘failure-to-depart’ for nearly two decades. However, under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, the federal immigration enforcement agency generally did not impose such financial penalties. In 2018, the Trump Administration changed the rules to make things more harsh and more punitive of immigrants and their families. In December of that year, former President Trump issued an Executive Order that, among other things, demanded that ICE “ensure the assessment and collection of all fines and penalties” to the maximum extent authorized by federal law.

A Move to Get the U.S. Immigration System Back to Normal

To summarize, the Biden Administration’s recent change of immigration policy to stop enforcing ‘failure to depart’ fines is not a radical departure from long-standing U.S. immigration law. Quite the contrary, the administration is simply moving us back to the system we had before anti-immigrant changes were made by President Trump.

Notably, ICE had already stopped issuing and collecting these fines starting on January 20th, 2021—that being the day that President Biden assumed the nation’s highest office. By officially issuing this rule, the Biden Administration is working to put additional guardrails in place to protect non-citizens from unjust and unnecessary civil penalties.

Contact Our Los Angeles, CA Immigration Advocate for Immediate Help

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we are driven by a passion for client service. Our legal team knows how to solve problems in immigration law. If you need legal guidance or legal advice, you can trust us to deliver top quality, personalized representation. Give us a call today for private initial discussion with an immigration attorney. We represent clients in Los Angeles and throughout California.