Blog Archive

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

United States and Mexico begin Interior Repatriation Initiative

United States and Mexico begin Interior Repatriation Initiative 
Tuesday, 02 October 2012 20:41 
Written by Imperial Valley News

El Paso, Texas - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Mexican Ministry of the Interior today announced the beginning of the Interior Repatriation Initiative (IRI), a new pilot to provide humane, safe and orderly repatriation of Mexican nationals to the interior of Mexico and ultimately to their hometowns, instead of returning them to towns on the U.S.-Mexico border.

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) will provide air transportation via charter aircraft to Mexican nationals who emigrated from the interior of Mexico. Upon arrival in Mexico City, the Government of Mexico will provide them transportation to their places of origin. This initiative will allow the Government of Mexico to assist returning Mexican nationals in safely reintegrating into their communities.

"IRI reflects our commitment and ongoing bilateral effort with the government of Mexico to ensure strong, humane and effective enforcement of both nations' immigration laws," said ICE Director John Morton. "This initiative will better ensure that individuals repatriated to Mexico are removed in circumstances that are safe and controlled."

Gustavo 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 IRI will include Mexican nationals pending removal from all areas of the United States. 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 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.

Individuals who participate in the pilot initiative are transferred from across the United States to the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M., before departure on an IRI flight.

The first repatriation flight of 131 Mexican nationals departed El Paso International Airport Tuesday, Oct. 2 and flights are scheduled to continue this year through to Nov. 29. Mexican nationals participating in IRI are removed on charter flights via the ICE ERO Air Operations (IAO) Unit. Headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., IAO has supported ERO since 2006 by providing air transportation and removal coordination services to ERO field offices nationwide. Staffed by ERO officers, these air charters enable the agency to repatriate large groups of deportees in an efficient, expeditious and humane manner.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

U.S. suspends immigrant flights back to Mexico

U.S. suspends immigrant flights back to Mexico 

Written by Bob Ortega 

The Arizona Republic 

8:46 AM; September 11, 2012 

PHOENIX —The U.S. government has temporarily stopped a voluntary repatriation program to fly home undocumented Mexican immigrants caught trying to enter Arizona during the summer because there aren’t enough illegal border crossers to fill daily flights.

There have been no flights this year under the 8-year-old program designed to reduce immigrant deaths by dissuading Mexicans caught crossing the Arizona border from trying again in the fierce heat of summer.

Attempts to keep them going and justify the costs of the $100 million program by filling planes with deported criminals have apparently been blocked by the Mexican government, which didn’t want violent male offenders mixed in with women and children.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials said they are still negotiating with the Mexican government to resume the program, though any agreement will likely be too late for any flights this year.

The U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have gone back to the practice of returning most immigrants directly across the Arizona-Mexico border.

The Mexican Interior Repatriation Program had operated each summer since 2004 under an agreement between Homeland Security and the Mexican government aimed at reducing deaths in Arizona’s harsh deserts by deterring apprehended immigrants from immediately crossing again.

By flying undocumented Mexican immigrants from Tucson more than 1,100 miles south to Mexico City, rather than simply forcing them to walk back across the border, it was believed fewer would make the trek back north and seek out smugglers to try to lead them across again. But, as The Arizona Republic reported last year, there have been questions about the program’s effectiveness.

From 2004 to 2011, the government spent $90 million to $100 million to fly 125,164 undocumented immigrants back to Mexico from Tucson. The program peaked in the summer of 2010, when 23,384 immigrants were flown back, according to the DHS.

But last summer, with a plunge in migration that officials attributed to the weak economy and tougher immigration enforcement, only 8,893 immigrants were repatriated. Flights carrying up to 146 people were cut to once from twice daily last year.

With the numbers dropping, the DHS and the Mexican government earlier this year began renegotiating the terms. Under the original deal, only first-time crossers and families from Mexico’s interior states were eligible for the voluntary flights.

On arrival in Mexico City, they were given bus tickets to their hometowns. The United States paid the full cost of the program. The Mexican Consulate in Tucson interviewed each person to make sure the return was voluntary.

But this year, according to an Associated Press report on Monday, Mexican officials balked at a plan by the DHS to add immigrants with criminal convictions to the planes to make the flights more cost-effective. DHS officials would not confirm that account.

Mexican diplomatic officials in Tucson, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., declined to answer questions about the disagreement. In a written statement, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington said the Mexican government continues to work with the U.S. government on “measures to prevent the loss of human life at our common border.”

Both governments have agreed to a separate program starting next month, called the Interior Removal Initiative, under which undocumented Mexican immigrants from across the U.S. could be flown back to Mexico. That program would not be voluntary.

More than 1,500 border crossers have died in Arizona’s desert over the past decade, with most of the deaths during the summer. Before the flight program, most undocumented immigrants caught in Arizona would simply be returned to the border, where officials would watch them cross back into Mexico, and where, officials acknowledged, most immediately sought the help of smugglers to try to cross again.

Critics have questioned the effectiveness of the flight program in reducing repeated crossing attempts by immigrants.

As The Republic previously reported, Customs and Border Protection records showed that, within months, hundreds of migrants flown south had been caught trying to cross illegally again.

Although it appeared that the rate at which migrants tried to cross did drop significantly, it was impossible to be certain because the Border Patrol would not provide complete recidivism data. From 2008 to 2010, 6 to 12percent of those flown home were rearrested that summer.

A 2010 review by the Government Accounting Office concluded that ICE failed to track data in a way that allowed it to accurately measure how well the repatriation program worked.

From 2004 to 2010, the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, which accounts for most of Arizona’s border with Mexico, tallied 1,362 migrant deaths. The numbers peaked in 2010, with 249 deaths, but have dropped the past two years.

Through the end of August this year, there have been 150 deaths. However, immigrant groups argue that the numbers are still high given the huge drops in estimated immigration over the past couple of years.

“The people dying on the border, we’re seeing, are mostly people who are very poor. There’s many indigenous people who are walking over with ‘coyotes,’” said Juanita Molina, executive director of Border Action Network, a Tucson human-rights group focused on migrant issues.

Although she sees some potential issues with the flights, Molina said that simply dropping people off at the border, as is now happening again, “makes them extremely vulnerable to being victimized.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

El 40% de migrantes repatriados son veracruzanos

El gobierno del Estado brinda apoyo y asistencia a todos los paisanos que son repatriados de Estados Unidos
Escrito por Carolina Miranda  
11 Mayo 2012

Xalapa, Ver.- El representante del Gobierno de Veracruz en Tamaulipas y en el Valle de Texas, Patricio Mora Domínguez, aseguró que de los 2 mil mexicanos que son repatriados anualmente de Estados Unidos al país, entre el 40 y 30 por ciento son veracruzanos.

En entrevista, resaltó que el gobierno del Estado brinda apoyo y asistencia a todos los paisanos que son repatriados o regresan por si mismos a su lugar de origen.

"Estamos hablando que al año se repatrían unas 2 mil personas, de esas un porcentajes de entre 30 y 40 por ciento son de nuestro estado, que muchas veces intentan retornar y el fin es darles la asistencia", dijo.

El funcionario estatal dio a conocer que se estima que unos 200 mil personas originarias de Veracruz habitan tanto en Estados Unidos como en Tamaulipas, muchos de los cuales tienen más de 50 años viviendo en esas regiones.

"Se hablaba que había unos 100 mil, 200 mil veracruzanos en ambos lados de la frontera, pero los que están en Reynosa emigraron hace más de 40 o 50 años con la cuestión de Pemex, posteriormente en los 80 llega la industria maquiladora y eso permite ofertar más empleo", explicó.

Recordó que cuando un veracruzano fallece en la Unión Americana también brindan todo el apoyo necesario a las familias para el traslado del cuerpo.

"También cuando fallece algún paisano nuestro en Estados Unidos el gobierno de Veracruz actúa de manera muy importante e inmediata en el traslado a sus lugares de origen, a partir del traslado aéreo a la ciudad de México y bueno de México a sus lugares de origen", aseveró.

Agregó que el gobernador Javier Duarte de Ochoa ha dado la instrucción puntual de darle todo el respaldo de su administración a los migrantes veracruzanos.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Life after deportation for U.S.-born children

Life after deportation for U.S.-born children
By Bill Whitaker
CBS News
8 May 2012

(CBS News) TIJUANA, Mexico - The U.S. Border Patrol announced a new strategy Tuesday for catching illegal immigrants from Mexico: using improved intelligence to target repeat offenders.

These days, though, many Mexicans heading home outnumbers those coming to the U.S. Many of them had been deported, the result of stepped-up enforcement. CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports what happens when families are forced to leave.

Every day Patricia Herrera walks her three children -- 12-year-old Yasmin, 10-year-old Elizabeth, and 8-year-old Vicente -- to school.

But these days, this familiar routine is on unfamiliar terrain. This family from Salt Lake City -- these American children -- have been uprooted to Tijuana, Mexico. These English-speaking children struggle to learn in Spanish.

"It's different and it's hard for me to understand what they're saying here," said one of the Herrera children.

Right across from the house they share with relatives is the fortified fence that marks the U.S. border. When Patricia was a baby, her mother sneaked her across. She grew up thinking she was a U.S citizen until she was stopped one day by federal agents. Caught a second time last October, she was deported. To keep her family intact, she brought her children -- U.S. citizens -- over in February.

"I was sad," said one of the Herrera children.

"I was scared, I was shock, I was nervous," said another.

Patricia Herrera said she is not adjusting well. "I never thought it would come to this, but it has. And it's hard
for them."

Four years ago, Tijuana schools started seeing a steady flow of American students whose parents had been deported. When the U.S. economy fell into deeper recession, that flow became a flood. The schools are overwhelmed.

This school, Francisco Villa, is a prime example of what's going on. Two years ago, there were no U.S. students enrolled. Last year, six enrolled; this year, 35. In all Tijuana schools, 2,000 students from the U.S. have enrolled so far this year.

Most feel trapped between two worlds. Cesar was born in Washington State. "I feel more American, he said, "because all my life I was over there."

Jasleen was born in California. Whitaker asked her how is it different in Mexico than the U.S. "Like over there is cleaner," she said. "Here, it's kind of dangerous, like when it's dark."

Patricia can't work because she can't speak Spanish well enough. She studies every night with her children. She survives on money her family sends from Utah every week.

"I live right here on the borderline too," she said. "And it's hard to know that I look over there and [I say], 'Oh, my God, if I could only get through there.' But I know I can't. So I have to accept and learn to live my life here."

It's a hard lesson many families from north of the border are having to learn.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Deportation cases halted, but illegal immigrants lives remain on hold

Deportation cases halted, but illegal immigrants lives remain on hold
By Jeremy Redmon  
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
5:39 a.m. Monday, May 7, 2012

Dalton -- Pedro “Peter” Morales remembers the party his family and friends threw last summer after he was freed from a detention center and told he would not be deported to Mexico.

They presented the 19-year-old with a chocolate cake that said “Welcome Back, Pedro.” His dad grilled chicken and steaks. Morales -- who was illegally brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was 7 -- was relieved to be back home in North Georgia. But those happy feelings have given way to anxiety. He still does not have legal status in the U.S. And the government won’t permit him to work legally here.

His situation stems from the federal government’s efforts to shrink a massive backlog in the nation’s immigration courts, totaling 306,010 cases as of last month. The government is shifting more of its focus toward deporting violent criminals, fugitives from immigration authorities, recent border crossers and people who have re-entered the country illegally.

Morales’ deportation case is among 2,722 the government has closed as part of this effort so far, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement figures show. Of those, 41 were from Atlanta’s immigration court, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse -- a research organization that monitors the federal government.

Charles Kuck, Morales’ immigration attorney, said his firm has about 20 other clients in the same predicament as Morales. He predicted there are many more caught in similar circumstances nationwide.
“It’s quite clear that there was not a lot of thought given to what happens to these people when we exercise our discretion of ‘Throw them back in the ocean,’ ” said Kuck, who teaches immigration law at the University of Georgia and is past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “It’s disappointing there wasn’t a better plan, frankly.”

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, has a different view. He said halting illegal immigrants’ deportation cases and then permitting them to work here could send the message that it is OK to enter the country illegally and stay here without legal status.

“It is like: ‘Hey, you know, now I’m legal. It’s great. I’m glad ICE arrested me,” said Krikorian, whose Washington-based organization advocates for tighter immigration controls. “Giving work authorization really is much more problematic.”

Federal officials said they are constrained by law concerning when they may grant work permits. They said some people who have had their deportation cases closed since last year have received work permits, but they could not immediately say how many.

They also pointed out that the Obama administration has been pushing Congress to pass the Dream Act. That measure -- which failed in Congress in 2010 -- would give illegal immigrants a path to legal status if they came here as children, graduated from high school and attended college or served in the military.

Meanwhile, ICE officials said they are moving as quickly as they can to review the cases pending in the nation’s immigration courts. They said they are trying to “alleviate the burden posed on already overwhelmed immigration courts” and have identified about 16,500 cases that meet their criteria for being closed. Closing cases through this process, according to ICE, allows the agency “to more quickly remove those individuals who pose the biggest threat to community security and who have most flagrantly abused our immigration system.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ignited controversy in August -- the same month Morales was freed -- when she announced the case-by-case review. The government’s actions come as Georgia and several other states are seeking to crack down on illegal immigration through their own new laws. Among other things, those statutes seek to block illegal immigrants from taking jobs from U.S. citizens and getting public benefits they are not entitled to. Parts of those laws are tied up in federal court amid legal challenges.

State Rep. Matt Ramsey, who authored Georgia’s illegal immigration law, said it makes sense for the government to prioritize deporting criminal illegal immigrants. But the government wouldn’t have such a massive court backlog, he said, if it spent more resources keeping illegal immigrants out of the country.

“They are in a position of having to do this because they have fundamentally failed over a period of decades to stem the tide effectively,” the Peachtree City Republican said, “and they are still not adequately putting the resources behind it to address the problem.”

President Barack Obama's supporters point out that his administration has deported a record number of illegal immigrants and other noncitizens. Last fiscal year, that number was 396,906, the largest number removed in the history of ICE.

Morales feels strongly about the government’s decision to halt deportation cases like his. A graduate of Whitfield Career Academy, he considers himself mostly American. His high school friends nicknamed him Peter. He sometimes speaks to his parents in English because he doesn’t know which Spanish words to use.
“I was raised here,” said Morales, a quiet, polite man who speaks in a somber tone. “I wouldn’t know what to do in Mexico if I go back.”

After his case was closed last year, Morales applied to the government through a process that could lead to a work permit, but his application was denied in March, his attorney said. Morales wants to get a full-time job -- with health insurance benefits -- to pay for tuition at Georgia Northwestern Technical College. He wants to study auto mechanics there and open his own car repair shop. He said he can’t support himself without full-time work, so he lives with his parents and two U.S.-born siblings.

Morales talked about his case this month at his parent’s home in a trailer park just outside Dalton. He said his parents brought him to the United States in 1999, fleeing poverty and crime in Mexico City. Morales was able to keep his legal status secret until he was arrested on Father’s Day for driving without a license. Local authorities determined that he was in the country illegally and turned him over to ICE, which sent him to a detention center 145 miles south of Atlanta in Stewart County. He said he spent many weeks there, depressed and worried about his future.

Morales was freed after his attorney cited the government’s new guidelines for “prosecutorial discretion” in court. Morales said he is glad to be free but is nervous about drawing the attention of immigration authorities again since they have the authority to reopen his deportation case. He said he rarely leaves home. When he does, friends drive. He mostly stays busy playing video games and working out at a local gym, though he can’t shake his restlessness.

“I want to be a good citizen and make a living,” he said. “It’s kind of frustrating right now.”

By the numbers

Seeking to shrink a massive backlog in the nation’s immigration courts, federal officials have begun an extensive case-by-case review of the 306,010 matters pending in the courts to see whether they should be closed because they don’t meet the government’s top priorities for enforcement. The federal government is shifting more of its focus toward deporting violent criminals, recent border crossers, people who have re-entered the country illegally and fugitives from immigration authorities.

As of April 16, the government has reviewed 219,554 cases and determined that about 16,500 of them meet its criteria for being closed. Of those, 2,722 have been closed. They include:

2,055 who have had a “very long-term presence” in the U.S., have an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen, have established “compelling ties and made compelling contributions” to the U.S.

182 who came to the U.S. under the age of 16, have been in the U.S. for more than five years, have completed high school or its equivalent and are now pursuing or have completed higher education in the U.S.

175 children who have been in the U.S. for more than five years and are either enrolled in school or have completed high school or its equivalent

103 who are a “very low enforcement priority”

100 who suffer from serious mental or physical conditions that would require “significant medical or detention resources”

60 victims of domestic violence, human trafficking or other serious crimes in the U.S.

23 who are older than 65 and have been in the U.S. for more than 10 years

16 who have been lawful permanent residents of the U.S. for 10 years or more and have a single, minor conviction for a nonviolent offense;

8 who are members of the U.S. military, honorably discharged U.S. military veterans or spouses or children of U.S. military veterans

Sources: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review

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