When the time has come to send illegal immigrants from Central America back where they came from, ICE Air is there — with a budget that keeps rising every year as more and more Central American migrants enter the U.S. illegally.
According to an Associated Press report, ICE Air’s budget is earmarked for a 30 percent increase. This comes on top of more than $1 billion spent in the past decade to deport illegal immigrants back to Central America.
An obscure division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operates private charter flights to deport immigrants, at a cost of $1 billion over the last decade. https://t.co/Emau9cYacP
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 17, 2018
There’s a reason for that.
The Center for Immigration Studies said that migration to the U.S. from Central America has increased 28 times its 1970 level, from 118,000 to 3.3 million.
The migrant caravans that crossed Mexico in recent months were largely made up of thousands of Central Americans who hoped to enter the U.S. illegally. Although most did not cross the border, those who did and were detained will eventually be flown back to Central America by ICE Air.
During 2018, migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras made up almost half of new deportation filings — 130,667 cases, CBS reported.
ICE Air, which transports detained illegal immigrants between cities and, eventually, to their home counties, flies about 100,000 illegal immigrants per year.
Although Mexican immigrants can be driven to the border and sent across, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has to fly Central Americans back home — chiefly to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
ICE estimates that it spends about $7,785 per hour on the flights.
At one point, ICE used planes through the U.S. Marshal’s Office. It embraced privatization several years ago and estimates it has saved $25 million by doing so.
Charter flights are also faster, officials said.
“I don’t want to elongate anybody’s detention with us,” said Pat Contreras, director of enforcement and removal for ICE’s Houston office.
“If a judge says you need to be removed, we should be expeditiously working to execute that order so that person does not spend any longer in detention than necessary,” he said.
ICE Air also works to ensure there are no incidents en route.
“We try and be as humane as we can with everything that we do,” Contreras said. “We try to make them safe. We want to make sure that not one individual does anything wrong.”
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