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.

Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration From Eliminating DACA

Things That Matter

Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration From Eliminating DACA

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

For three years, people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status faced an uncertain future. The Trump administration was involved in legal battles after abruptly eliminating the program. For the third time this week, the Supreme Court has handed down a major loss for the Trump administration as they protected DACA from Trump’s attack.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration cannot end DACA.

The 5-4 decision is the third major legal loss for the Trump administration this week. SCOTUS ruled earlier this week that LGBTQ+ cannot be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The court also refused to take up a case challenging California’s sanctuary state law letting the law stand.

The decision to temporarily protect DACA was a split decision with all of the conservative justices (Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel A. Alito Jr.) voting in favor of the Trump administration. Justice John Robert joined the liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan saving the program from the Trump administration, for now.

In the ruling, written by Justice John Roberts, the court cites that the acting secretary of state violated the Administrative Procedures Act when ending the program. Basically, the announcement was lacking substance and did not address key parts of the policy. This made the announcement void of an argument supporting the dismantling of the program.

The ruling is only temporary relief for the hundreds of thousands of young people on DACA.

While the program has been spared, it is not completely saved. The decision from the Supreme Court today focuses on the way DACA was eliminated, not the actual elimination. This means that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now has time to reevaluate its case against DACA to try again.

“The Court still does not resolve the question of DACA’s rescission,” Alito wrote in his dissent. “Instead, it tells the Department of Homeland Security to go back and try again.”

The conservative justices, while dissenting, did release statements that agreed with parts of the decision to block the Trump administration from eliminating DACA. The Trump administration first announced that they were ending DACA in 2017 with a press conference on the border led by Jeff Sessions.

Justice Sotomayor made her own headlines after calling the case a racist attack.

“I would not so readily dismiss the allegation that an executive decision disproportionately harms the same racial group that the President branded as less desirable mere months earlier,” Justice Sotomayor wrote in her concurrence of the decision.

Organizers and activists are giving credit to the DACA community for this victory.

The DACA community has led the charge to protect their status in the U.S. The movement has largely been done thanks to the work of DACA recipients fighting for their right to be here. For many, it is the only country they know after arriving to the U.S. without proper documentation when they were young children.

The president has tweeted his clear displeasure on the Supreme Court that he tried to stack in his favor by appointing two justices.

Both justice Kavanaugh and Gorsuch were Trump’s appointees. After three losses from the Supreme Court, President Trump followed his usual playbook and accused the Supreme Court of not liking him.

Now, it is time for Congress to act.

With DACA recipients temporarily spared sudden deportation, Congress must act and pass legislation protecting Dreamers from being deported. The Dream Act is one piece of legislation that offers DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship, something most Americans agree with.

READ: ICE Is Threatening To Reopen Deportation Proceedings Against All DACA Recipients Regardless Of DACA Status

Supreme Court Refuses Case Challenging California’s Sanctuary State Status

Things That Matter

Supreme Court Refuses Case Challenging California’s Sanctuary State Status

Alex Wong / Getty Images

The Supreme Court of the United States has refused to hear a challenge to California’s sanctuary state law. At the heart of the case is the state’s law limiting the cooperation of state law enforcement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to California’s sanctuary state law in a 7-2 vote.

Conservative justice Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. both wanted to hear the case brought by the Trump administration. The other justices, John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer voted against the Trump administration refusing to hear the case.

The court, as per usual custom, did not offer a reason as to why they will not hear the case. This means that the previous ruling the case will stand.

The previous court ruling, supporting the law, will now stand in California.

A unanimous panel of judges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in favor of the law. According to the lower court’s ruling, the federal government has no power in commandeering a state’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The ruling states that California’s law can stand because of the Tenth Amendment.

This is a significant blow to the Trump administration that has made a toughness on immigration central to their mission. President Donald Trump, who lost in the Supreme Court twice today, started his 2016 campaign railing against Mexican immigrants calling them rapists and criminals.

The decision is making some people question the humanity of Thomas and Alito.

Justices Thomas and Alito are notorious for being very conservative justices. The two justices usually vote along party lines siding with the Conservative population. Their rulings are often targeted at limiting rights to certain groups. Justice Thomas makes news when he asks questions from the bench because of his consistent silence.

The ruling has sent critics of the president into a laugh-filled celebration.

It wasn’t long ago that news agencies reported that Trump went to the bunker during the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington. Trump claims that he went to the bunker to inspect it, not to hide from protesters. The news sent protesters and BLM supports to call out the president unable to handle a protest against him.

Some people think it has been a very bad day for the U.S. president.

A Supreme Court decision is precedent. Now, the California law limiting cooperation between state law enforcement and ICE can be replicated in other states. It is also another example of a state’s rights being protected.

READ: Supreme Court Hearing Arguments For DACA, Leaning Towards Elimination