(RNS) — About a dozen people taking refuge in sanctuary churches across the country received a letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this week, informing them they owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in civil penalties for disobeying orders to leave the country.
Among those was Rosa del Carmen Ortez Cruz, a 38-year-old mother of four living at a Presbyterian church in Chapel Hill, N.C., who was told she owes more than $300,000 for overstaying her deportation order. Her lawyers at McKinney Immigration Law in Greensboro, N.C., received a similar letter.
Ortez Cruz fled Honduras for the United States in 2002, after her domestic partner, the father of her son, stabbed her multiple times. The Church of Reconciliation and the Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship offered her refuge from immediate deportation last year because she is afraid of returning to Honduras, where her ex-partner lives.