- A Newsweek report found that commercial airlines, including some of the biggest in the United States, deported unauthorised individuals on behalf of ICE.
- The airlines made at least 1,386 flights between January 1, 2019, and January 16, 2020.
- ICE paid discounted fares for the deportation flights.
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A new report has found that three of the biggest commercial airlines in the United States made more than 1,200 deportation flights for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in just over one year.
Commercial airlines made at least 1,386 flights to remove unauthorised individuals from the United States between January 1, 2019 and January 16, 2020. The data, published Friday morning by Newsweek, was obtained by the outlet through a Freedom of Information Act request with ICE.
United Airlines accounted for almost half of the tallied flights, with 677 trips. American Airlines made 345 deportations, and Delta Airlines made 266. Together, the three airlines hold 49.9% of the domestic commercial-flights market, according to the US Bureau of Transpiration.
All the reported flights went to Latin America. Over 80% of them were destined for Northern Triangle countries – Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Honduras received 605 flights, 429 went to Guatemala, and 79 landed in El Salvador.
Three foreign airlines – the Colombian company Avianca, Panama’s Copa Airlines, and Mexico’s AeroMexico – also flew individuals out of the country on behalf of the US government agency. But in total, their deportations made up less than 0.7% of the reported 1,386 flights.
Alaskan Airlines made one flight for ICE.
Roughly half of all reported deportation flights flew out of airports in Texas and New York. According to the Pew Research Centre, nearly 11 million unauthorised immigrants live in the United States. Texas and New York are both in the top-four states by number of unauthorised people. Around 1.6 million live in Texas, and more than 750,000 live in New York.
According to Newsweek, 450 commercial-flight deportations departed from Texas. 280 flew out of New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport.
An American Airlines spokesperson sent an email to Newsweek explaining that US commercial carriers offer discounted fares to ICE for its flights through the City Pair Program (CPP).
Delta, United, American, and Alaskan Airlines all offer CPP-discounted fares to ICE, according to the US General Services Administration.
The Newsweek report found that while a typical flight from JFK to Honduras costs roughly $US500, the discounted fare for ICE is as little as $US177.
The CPP discount, according to ICE spokesperson Danielle Bennett, is not only for ICE operations.
“It is government-wide,” Bennett told Newsweek.
It is unclear whether the commercial flights were for detainees alone. Neither ICE nor any of the airlines responded to whether non-detainee passengers typically travelled on the same flight as unauthorised individuals being deported.
ICE’s use of commercial airlines for deportations has been previously reported, but is “hidden in plain sight,” according to a report from the George Washington University Centre for Human Rights.
The report noted that “only small numbers of deportations take place on commercial flights.”
In the 2017 fiscal year, ICE “coordinated the removal of 8,288 aliens via commercial flights and the removal or transfer of 181,317 aliens via charter flights,” according to a 2019 report from the US Office of the Inspector General.
- Read more:
- The government has spent $US1 billion in the last decade to deport 100,000 people on planes per year. Here’s what ‘ICE Air’ is like.
- A man says he unwittingly recruited foreign-born students to ICE’s fake university. He’s been sentenced to federal prison and will be deported after his sentence.
- A judge who reports his Spanish-speaking defendants to ICE claims ‘it’s not racial profiling’
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