Deportation flights for Mexican nationals who are being returned to Mexico under a new repatriation initiative began today from El Paso International Airport, the U.S. and Mexican officials announced.
The first repatriation flight of 131 Mexican nationals departed the airport earlier today, and flights are scheduled to continue this year through Nov. 29.
Mexican nationals are removed on charter flights through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Air Operations (ERO) Unit.
Staffed by ERO officers, the air charters enable the agency to repatriate large groups of deportees in an efficient, expeditious and humane manner, officials said.
People who take part in the pilot initiative are transferred from across the United
States to the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M., before their departure on the flight from El Paso.
Officials said that the Interior Repatriation Initiative is a new pilot to carry out the humane, safe and orderly repatriation of Mexican nationals to the interior of Mexico and ultimately to their hometowns, instead of returning them to cities on the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) will provide air transportation with charter aircraft to Mexican nationals who had traveled from Mexico's interior.
Once they arrive in Mexico City, the Mexican government will provide the Mexican nationals with transportation to their places of origin. This
will allow Mexican officials to assist returning Mexican nationals in safely reintegrating into their communities, officials said.
The initiative "reflects our commitment and ongoing bilateral effort with the government of Mexico to ensure strong, humane and effective enforcement of both nations' immigration laws," ICE Director John Morton said. "This initiative will better ensure that individuals repatriated to Mexico are removed in circumstances that are safe and controlled."
Mohar Betancourt, Undersecretary of Mexico's population, migration and religious affairs said, "This initiative aims to collaborate and fully support border state authorities by reducing the number of Mexican nationals who are repatriated to the border region. The newly repatriated, often with no means to return home, are susceptible to becoming a part of criminal organizations as a means of survival."
The initiative will include Mexican nationals pending removal from all areas of the United States.
Officials said that, historically, a significant number of individuals are not from the northern border towns to which they are repatriated, leaving them in communities where they have no ties or family support.
Removing Mexican nationals to the interior of Mexico also is part of an effort to reduce repeat attempts to illegally enter the United States, avoid the loss of human life, and minimize the potential for exploitation of illegal migrants by human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as other criminal organizations.
Previously, Mexican border mayors, including former Juarez mayors, had complained that the U.S. government was "dumping" nationals that they were unable to assist financially, and that some of them had criminal backgrounds and had completed prison sentences in the United States.
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