The United States has flown more than 450 undocumented migrants to the interior of Mexico under a recently resumed repatriation program that flies some migrants back rather than return them at land ports on the southern border.
The resumption of the repatriation program comes as the U.S. has seen an uptick in illegal immigration from Mexico and as the U.S. has sought increasing cooperation from the Mexican government to block migrants from Central America and other countries from reaching the U.S. border.
The repatriation flights resumed in December.
Since then, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has flown more than 450 undocumented immigrants to Guadalajara, U.S. Customs and Border Protectionsaid in a post on Twitter.
ICE has not released data on the total number of undocumented migrants flown to Mexico.
Guadalajara is about 1,100 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and is Mexico’s second largest city in the western state of Jalisco.
The migrants flown to Guadalajara were apprehended by the Border Patrol, part of CBP, and transferred to ICE custody.
The repatriation program, which is being implemented with cooperation from Mexico’s Ministry of the Interior, is intended to discourage undocumented immigrants caught by the Border Patrol from returning to the U.S. after their repatriation.
Typically undocumented immigrants from Mexico caught by the Border Patrol are sent back at border crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The Interior Repatriation Initiative reflects our commitment and ongoing bilateral effort with the government of Mexico to ensure strong, humane, and effective enforcement of both nations’ immigration laws,” acting ICE Director Matt Albence said in a written statement.
So far, the flights have left from airports in Arizona, ICE officials said.
The most recent flight left Jan.24 from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport carrying 106 migrants, including 97 men and 9 women, according to Mary Houtmann, an ICE spokeswoman.
The first flight left Dec. 19 from Tucson International Airport with approximately 150 undocumented immigrants form Mexico, ICE officials said in a statement.
After falling sharply for years, Border Patrol apprehensions of undocumented immigrants from Mexico have increased recently, in part due to growing numbers of migrants fleeing cartel violence and seeking asylum in the U.S.