Immigrants at churches to avoid deportation face big fines

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Attorneys say immigrants taking sanctuary in U.S. churches to avoid deportation are being told by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement that they face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines under a little-used federal law.

A lawyer representing a woman at a Columbus, Ohio, church says her client and at least nine others in similar circumstances around the country recently received notification threatening civil penalties. The totals amount to about $800 in daily penalties under part of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Attorney Lizbeth Mateo says she believes it's an attempt to scare her client and others into leaving, not a pursuit of money they don't have.

Spokesmen for ICE say the agency is committed to enforcing U.S. immigration law using various methods, including financial penalties.