EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A federal agency says it will continue to repatriate ineligible migrants after Title 42 ends on May 11.
The air operations branch of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) schedules an average of 66 repatriation flights a week to the Northern Triangle of Central America and selected countries in South America and the Caribbean, an ICE official told Border Report.
Two such charter flights departed El Paso International Airport bound for Guatemala City and San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Wednesday morning. More than 100 shackled migrants got off white buses and were escorted up some stairs to each of the chartered airplanes. The migrants would receive a “sack lunch” and medical care as needed during the four-hour flights.
“These detainees are coming from CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) custody. They were recently encountered and have not spent much time in detention,” the Washington, D.C.-based ICE official said on condition that he not be named. “ICE/ERO (Enforcement and Removal Operations) has done removal flights for many years. We will continue to have them after Title 42 goes away.”
ICE officials on Wednesday allowed camera crews to film the migrants getting off the buses and boarding the repatriation flights. One official said the shackles are meant for the protection of law enforcement officers and migrants alike. The migrants are unshackled once they land in their home countries.
Federal officials did not allow reporters to talk to the migrants on Wednesday.
All those on the flights were adult men and women ranging in age from 18 to 59. Most were still expelled under Title 42 public health authority. Starting on Friday, the flights will take back to their home countries migrants who are deemed ineligible to stay in the U.S. under Title 8 authority.
ICE, CBP and other federal agencies in the past few weeks have stressed that any foreign national that comes across the border between lawful ports of entry and doesn’t have a legal basis to stay in the country will continue to be removed from the country after May 11.