Things That Matter

ICE Air Is A Real Airline That The Government Uses To Deport Thousands Of Migrants Every Day

In news that many don’t realize, the government is operating a charter airline called ICE Air for the sole purpose of deporting thousands of migrants each day.

The airline, which is really called ICE Air, transports people who have received orders of removal to their country of origin. For many, that is a dangerous move that has resulted in people’s deaths shortly after arriving back in their origin country.

ICE Air is a real airline and it’s funded with taxpayer dollars.

The Washington Post released an article over the weekend detailing the exclusive press trip aboard ICE Air. A Univision television crew and Matt Albence, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were on-board a flight from Louisiana to Guatemala.

The article itself is a wild ride and an interesting piece of reporting with a lot to be gleaned as much from what is not said as what appears in print. At one point, Albence comments on the cheers coming from some of the passengers aboard the flight. “You see? They’re smiling!” he tells Miroff, “This is probably better than some of the commercial flights I fly on.” 

The acting director of ICE thinks it’s better than flying commercial…

Credit: Reddit

Well, Matthew, pretty sure that if you were being released after being held for months, sometimes years, in questionable conditions and then shackled on a two and a half hour flight, you might let out a sigh of relief.

Here’s Univision’s coverage of “ICE Air” in 2017:

So what exactly is “ICE Air”? In a quick overview from the ICE website, ICE Air Charter Operations is a network of chartered flights which act as the last step of deportation for many Central American immigrants. There are five ICE Air locations throughout the United States – San Antonio and Brownsville, Texas, Alexandria, Louisiana (where the press trip flight took off from), Miami, Florida, and Mesa, Arizona. Destination flights typically land in countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Each flight costs $7,785 per flight hour.

2.5 hours, at the short end. 9 flights per week. About 130 people on the flight (assuming the flight is full). Carry the one. Round up to the nearest ugh. It all adds up to a pretty expensive operation for a method that may not even be that effective. Many of the passengers Miroff talked to planned to go back to the United States when they were able.

And ICE Air is currently under scrutiny for alleged misconduct and abuse.

The University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights has been studying ICE Air for the past year. The lack of transparency that haunts the initial article mentioned here, also shows up in a big way in the report the research team put out in April 2019. 

The team were able to analyze the data pulled from ICE’s Alien Repatriation Tracking System obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. Upfront, they acknowledge the challenge of studying this leg of the deportation process considering the data missing from the set like the failure to make distinctions between flights used to move people between detention centers and flights on what ICE calls removal missions, how many people are being transported by commercial flights and unwillingness to release safety reports.

Even so, the report sheds a lot of light on the operation and some of the things reported in the Miroff article. 

For example, ICE would only release information on a fraction of the passengers on the press trip flight. To read it, one gets the impression that over half of the people on ICE air flights have a criminal past and it seems to be the only story that can be told. However, the UW report reveals that 52% of detainees on deportation flights have no criminal record. 

In fact, if you look closer at that other half of the flight that does NOT have a criminal record, you might be likely to find some folks on the plane who are still undergoing court proceedings, their lawyers finding out about client deportation AFTER the fact in some cases.

More troubling is the documentation of abuses aboard these flights.

Among the claims made by deportees, they found reports of verbal abuse, physical abuse, and denial of access to restrooms resulting in passengers soiling themselves in their seat (which may explain the air freshener). From the UW report: “A Salvadoran national, for example, described being called “scum,” accused of “taking our jobs,” and watching other deportees stumble on the tarmac when shoved while wearing leg shackles at King County International Airport in Seattle.”

While these incidents are few and far between given the scope of mass deportation from the U.S., UW plans to provide further documentation regarding human rights abuses in a new report they are hoping to publish after receiving documents requested under FOIA that have been slow in coming.

And of course, we must not forget what some of the people on this flight will be going home to.

2018 TIME article documents the economic and social reasons why people are fleeing from Central America and continuing on to the United States. While international refugee law prohibits refoulement, the forcible return of asylum seekers to a place where they would be at risk of torture and inhumane treatment, over three quarters of refugees from Mexico and Central America are denied asylum.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

10-Year-Old Boy Found Crying Alone Near Border Had Been Deported And Kidnapped With His Mom

Things That Matter

10-Year-Old Boy Found Crying Alone Near Border Had Been Deported And Kidnapped With His Mom

Anyone who has watched this video of a 10-year-old boy asking a Border Patrol officer for help through tears, can admit just how heartbreaking it is. The boy says he was left alone while traveling with a group across the border when they abandoned him.

But now his family is speaking out and sharing the backstory to the emotional video that further highlights just how urgently the crisis at the border needs to be addressed.

Video of a 10-year-old boy wandering near the border quickly went viral for how heartbreaking it was.

A heartbreaking video shared last week by Customs and Border Protection of an unnamed 10-year-old boy found wandering alone in Texas underscored how desperate the situation is on the southern border. The video showed a young Nicaraguan boy found on the side of a dirt road by an off-duty Border Patrol agent after wandering alone for four hours in the desert.

People reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection released footage of the incident, which happened on April 1 by a Rio Grande border patrol agent. The boy explains to the officer that he woke up and discovered that his group had left him behind. “I came looking because I didn’t know where to go, and they can also rob or kidnap me or something,” he told the officer. 

In a statement to the publication, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agent “transported the child to a Border Patrol facility where he was fed and medically screened.”

But now we’re getting a better understanding of what led to this heartbreaking video.

Now, the boy’s family have described his plight to the Washington Post. Little 10-year-old Wilton Obregon and his mom crossed the border into Texas last month but were expelled under Title 42, a policy that releases migrants back to Mexico without letting them seek asylum.

Hours after they were sent back, they were kidnapped, according to Wilton’s Miami-based uncle, Misael Obregon. The kidnappers called him and demanded a $10,000 ransom but Misael could only pay $5,000 so the kidnappers only released Wilton. They dumped Wilton back at the border. Obregon said his sister is still in custody of the kidnappers. “Now I’m worried that she’s going to die,” he said.

In fact, the boys mom called Misael Obregon on Friday morning, crying after seeing the video of her son crying at the border.

The family’s plight highlights the need for reforms to Title 42.

During the campaign, President Biden complained about the humanitarian consequences of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forced asylum seekers to wait for the their court hearings in Mexico. Many were forced to wait in dangerous refugee camps along the border that subjected them to human trafficking, violence, and sexual assault.

Under Title 42, though, which began under President Donald Trump and continues under Biden, asylum seekers are again in the same desperate situation. It’s unclear how many of them have been kidnapped.

“The Biden administration is winding down one of the Trump administration’s most notorious policies but at the same time it is expelling other asylum seekers back to the very same dangers, attacks and kidnappings through its continued use of the Trump administration’s Title 42 policy to evade U.S. refugee law,” Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at Human Rights First, said in a statement.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

Things That Matter

9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

Photo via Getty Images

On March 20th, U.S. Border Patrol agents found a 9-year-old migrant girl unresponsive along with her mother and sibling on an island in the Rio Grande.

U.S. Border Patrol agents attempted to resuscitate the family. The agents were able to revive the mother and her younger, 3-year-old child. The Border Patrol agents transferred the 9-year-old migrant girl to emergency medics in emergency medics in Eagle Pass, Texas, but she remained unresponsive.

In the end, the 9-year-old migrant girl died–the cause of death being drowning.

The mother of the two children was Guatemalan while the two children were born in Mexico.

The death of the 9-year-old migrant girl is notable because this is the first migrant child death recorded in this current migration surge. And experts worry that it won’t be the last.

And while this is the first child death, it is not the only migrant who has died trying to make it across the border. On Wednesday, a Cuban man drowned while trying to swim across the border between Tijuana and San Diego. He was the second migrant to drown in just a two-week period.

Why is this happening?

According to some reports, the reason so many migrants are heading towards the U.S. right now is “because President Trump is gone”. They believe they have a better chance of claiming asylum in the U.S.

Another factor to take into consideration is that a large number of these migrants are unaccompanied minors. According to migrant services volunteer Ruben Garcia, Title 42 is actually having the opposite effect of its intent. President Trump enacted Title 42 to prevent immigration during COVID-19 for “safety reasons”.

“Families that have been expelled multiple times that are traveling with children,” Garcia told PBS News Hour. “Some of them are making the decision to send their children in by themselves, because they have families someplace in the U.S., and they know their children will be released to them.”

Is there a “border crisis”?

That depends on who you ask. According to some experts, the numbers of migrants heading to the U.S./Mexico border aren’t out-of-the-ordinary considering the time of year and the fact that COVID-19 made traveling last year virtually impossible.

According to Tom Wong of the University of California at San Diego’s U.S. Immigration Policy Center, there is no “border crisis”. “This year looks like the usual seasonal increase, plus migrants who would have come last year but could not,” Wong says.

As the Washington Post explained: “What we’re seeing right now is a predictable seasonal shift. When the numbers drop again in June and July, policymakers may be tempted to claim that their deterrence policies succeeded.”

What is the Biden Administration planning on doing about it?

As of now, it is pretty evident that the Biden Administration has not been handling this migrant surge well, despite ample warning from experts. As of now, President Biden has put Vice President Harris in charge of handling the issues at the border.

As of now, the game plan is still very vague. But in the past, the Biden Administration has stated that they plan to fix the migrant surge at the source. That means providing more aid to Central America in order to prevent further corruption of elected officials.

They also want to put in place a plan that processes children and minors as refugees in their own countries before they travel to the U.S. The government had not tested these plans and they may take years to implement. Here’s to hoping that these changes will prevent a case like the death of the 9-year-old migrant girl.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com