MEXICO CITY — U.S. immigration authorities have begun flying deportees deep into Mexico in an effort to discourage them from trying to return, U.S. and Mexican officials said.
The first of twice-weekly flights from El Paso to Mexico City left on Thursday with 133 deportees aboard, all men.
ICE spokeswoman Nicole Navas said the flights will accommodate up to 136 men and women, but no children. Deportees fly from throughout the United States to Chaparral, N.M., for a short bus ride to El Paso.
The flights are not voluntary, unlike a previous program to deport Mexicans arrested by the Border Patrol during Arizona's deadly summer heat. Mexico's National Migration Institute said the flights will last six months, taking place every Tuesday and Thursday, and the Mexican government will pay for returnees' travel from the Mexico City airport to their hometowns. About 6,800 people are expected to be returned under the program. Special accommodations are being made for minors traveling alone, Mexico said.
Under a two-month trial last year, more than 2,300 Mexicans returned on 18 flights. The United States and Mexico agreed in April to make the arrangement permanent.
ICE has long flown home deportees who are from countries that don't share a land border with the United States, most commonly Central Americans. Mexicans, who account for the vast majority of people living in the United States illegally, are traditionally sent by plane or bus to a city along the 1,954-mile border with Mexico.
The flight marks the beginning for regular air travel to Mexicans who are deported, a welcome development for authorities in Tijuana and other Mexican border cities who have complained they are getting overwhelmed by unemployed newcomers.
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