Nearly 2,400 people in the past two months were put on U.S.-chartered planes and deported to Mexico City. It was part of a pilot project between the two governments that ended Nov. 29. Once these planes landed, the Mexican government took over, put the deportees on a bus, and sent them back to their home towns.
“This is a humanitarian effort,” said Leticia Zamarripa, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson in El Paso. “Especially again in light of the violence we are seeing south of the border here in Cuidad Juarez.”
The flights cost the U.S. government $1.1 million. But Zamarripa says it was worth it. In recent years, most of the hundreds of thousands of Mexicans kicked out of the United States have been dropped just south of the border. With no connections, they’re often swept up into local drug cartels. So the U.S. government has felt pressure to change its policy.
ICE says it’s working with the administration of Mexico’s new president Enrique Peña Nieto to continue flying deportees all the way down to Mexico City. But long flights don’t necessarily keep deportees out of trouble. ICE puts every Guatemalan, for instance, on a plane to Guatemala City.
Carlos Galicia Molina made the four-hour trip last year. He was getting deported for a second time, and explained how the dire economy at home would tempt the men on this plane to join gangs as soon as they landed.
“Of course, the same day we are over there they go to the criminal organizations and they start doing the wrong things again,” Galicia Molia said.
That may not be very surprising. ICE is now focused on deporting people who’ve committed crimes in the U.S. During the recent flights to Mexico City, 82 percent of those on board were convicted criminals.
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