Now, an exclusive airline for US deportees

October 17th, 2008 - 10:48 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, Oct 17 (IANS) Yes! The US has actually created a de facto airline to cope with a spike in deportations following continuing crackdown on illegal immigration, predominantly from Central America.This carrier is run by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency responsible for tracking down and deporting undocumented immigrants, Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The air service, called Repatriate by air-traffic controllers, is known simply as ICE (abbreviation for Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Air to agency employees.

ICE Air operates much like a commercial carrier, first taking passengers to hub cities where they connect to international flights. The hub cities, such as Houston in Texas, Mesa in Arizona and Alexandria in Louisiana, are close to illegal-immigrant detention sites.

The final destinations are mainly in Latin America, including up to three flights daily to Guatemala City and two to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Service to the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia has also been launched.

The agency now flies 10 aircraft, twice as many as last year, including leased and government jets.

Overall, the US government deports people to more than 190 countries. Leaving aside Mexico, the major source of undocumented people coming to the US as the two share a long border, ICE Air flew home nearly 76,000 illegal immigrants in the fiscal year that ended Sep 30, up from 72,187 last year and 50,222 two years ago.

Washington foots the bill at $620 a person on average for the one-way flight home.

In-flight service is polite. “For a lot of these immigrants, it has been a long journey to the US,” Michael J. Pitts, chief of flight operations for deportations and removals at ICE, was quoted as saying in the Journal.

“This is going to be the last impression they have of the United States. We want to provide good service.”

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