The United States has resumed an 8-year-old program that flies undocumented immigrants, caught at the border, to Mexico City during the hot summer months as part of an effort to stem illegal immigration, thwart smuggling organizations and prevent migrant deaths.
The voluntary program, operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will run through Sept. 28 and is expected to cost $9 million to $11 million, said Vincent Picard, a spokesman for ICE based in Phoenix.
Under the program, undocumented immigrants from central and southern states in Mexico apprehended by the Border Patrol are given the opportunity to fly on a chartered flight from Tucson to Mexico City, where they are given bus tickets to return to their hometowns.
Ordinarily, undocumented immigrants from Mexico caught by the Border Patrol are simply returned to Mexico through ports along the border, where many simply reconnect with smugglers and attempt to cross illegally again.
But the U.S. pays for the cost of the flights and the bus tickets. Mexican consular officials interview all migrants before they board the flights to make sure they are participating voluntarily, Picard said.