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ICE Waives Fine Against Edith Espinal

Edith Espinal sitting in the sanctuary of the Columbus Mennonite Church.
Nick Evans
Edith Espinal moved into the Columbus Mennonite Church in October 2017.

Federal immigration officials are withdrawing their nearly half-million dollar fine against Edith Espinal, the Columbus woman who’s been living in sanctuary in a Clintonville church for two years to avoid deportation.

Espinal became a face of the sanctuary movement when she became the first Columbus resident known to be living in a sanctuary church after moving into the Columbus Mennonite Church. She learned in June that ICE issued her a fine for $497,777.

An emailed statement from an ICE spokesman says Edith and other immigrants living in similar situations are still "subject to final orders of removal and they remain in the United States in violation of law," but the statement says ICE "has reserved the right to reassess fines in these cases."

Espinal was born in Mexico but moved to Columbus in 1995 with her father. She returned to her home country briefly, but came back to Columbus in 2000. Along the way, she got a job and started a family. She has three children and has applied for asylum.

Espinal is from Michoacan, a Mexican state along the Pacific coast, and rising violence in the region helped prompt her asylum claims. However in 2017, immigration authorities rejected her case, so the Mennonite church offered her sanctuary instead.

Last week, Espinal met with Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro while he was in Central Ohio for the fourth Democratic presidential debate. Castro's immigration plan includes breaking up ICE, which he says has "gone overboard with a toxic culture."