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Special Flight

Premiere Date: July 1, 2013

'Special Flight' in Context

United States Repatriation Programs

From the summer of 2004 through 2011, U.S. border control sponsored optional flights to Mexico for 125,154 people arrested along the Arizona border. The program was said to be intended to protect people from the extreme Arizona summer heat, as well as from smugglers and human traffickers along the border. The flights were deemed voluntary.

In 2011, the United States and Mexico piloted a new program that flew detainees back to Mexico called the Mexican Interior Repatriation Program (MIRP). Unlike the former initiative, the MIRP involved mandatory flights managed by ICE—not the border patrol. According to ICE, the program operated 70 flights over 80 days in 2011 and resulted in 8,893 Mexican nationals being repatriated. Passengers included Mexicans with and without criminal convictions. The United States paid for flights back to Mexico City, and Mexico paid to return people to their hometowns. There were no reports of passengers being chained up or maltreated.

Publicity brought attention to the flights’ steep cost of $724 per passenger and, consequently, there were few flights through much of 2012. However, in October 2012 a new pilot program called the Interior Repatriation Initiative (IRI) was launched, and it was officially signed in April 2013 by secretary of the interior Janet Napolitano and the government of Mexico. This new program will use chartered aircrafts to repatriate Mexican nationals from all areas of the United States.

» U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Secretary Napolitano Meets with Counterparts from Mexico.”
» Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “United States, Mexico Resume Voluntary Interior Repatriation Program.”
» National Immigration Forum. “Analyzing Border Enforcement Operations: Interior Repatriation Programs.”
» Persad, Khara. “Repatriation Program for Mexican Immigrants Evolving.” Inside Tucson Business, September 14, 2012.
» Washington Valdez, Diana. “US Repatriation Program to Mexico ends.” El Paso Times, December 6, 2012.

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