Illegal Immigrants Deported By Plane Hits A High

llegal immigrants deported by plane hits a high

By Dennis Wagner
The Arizona Republic, October 1, 2010

A record 23,384 illegal Mexican immigrants voluntarily accepted flights back to their homeland from Arizona this summer under a repatriation program created by the United States and Mexico.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that the number of volunteers in 2010 was more than double the previous year and easily surpassed every annual total since the Mexican Interior Repatriation Program started in 2004.

The program varies in duration each year, ICE spokesman Vincent Picard said.

Repatriation flights were offered for nearly four months this summer compared with 36 days last year.

A joint operation of ICE, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Mexican Ministry of the Interior, the program was created to reduce the number of deaths among illegal border crossers and to combat human smuggling.

Captured immigrants in southern Arizona are returned to their homes deep in Mexico instead of being dropped at border towns where they might repeat efforts to unlawfully enter the United States.

'MIRP reflects our mutual commitment to strong and effective enforcement of both nations' immigration laws, and this program is proof that we can do so in a humanitarian way,' said Katrina S. Kane, field office director for ICE removal operations in Tucson. 'This program prioritizes the humane treatment of detainees throughout the removal process.'

There is no correlation between the number of participants and border arrests, which have plummeted during the past five years.

All told, more than 116,000 illegal immigrants have been removed from the United States in the repatriation program's six years of operation. The Mexican consular office in Phoenix said 84 percent of this year's volunteers were male, and the total included 963 juveniles.

Program costs this year are estimated at nearly $15 million, Picard said.

The final flight for 2010 departed for Mexico City on Tuesday with 130 passengers. From there, participants received bus tickets to their home states in southern or central Mexico.