Repatriation flight from TucsonPosted: Updated:
TUCSON, Ariz. -- For the eighth summer in a row, U.S. immigration officials are offering captured illegal immigrants a free flight to Mexico City, then a bus ticket to their hometowns.
It's meant to save lives and prevent them from coming back by bringing illegals to their homes rather than dumping them right across the border.
An unmarked plane sits on the tarmac of Tucson International Airport, away from the main terminal.
It's the ride home for over 120 captured illegal immigrants headed back to the interior of Mexico.
"We do this between the months of June and September because that's the hottest months of the year and that's when they parish in the desert area," said Thomas Honan from the Department of Homeland Security.
During a new conference Monday morning at TIA, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency announced the start of this year's Mexican Interior Repatriation Program, which sends illegal immigrants caught crossing into the U.S. back home.
"Our data shows that we have 95% success rate which means these people aren't back in the mix for many many months, if at all," said Honan.
U.S. Officials send the migrants back to their homes to get them away from the border region and separate them from the smuggling organizations which profit from them crossing in the first place.
"It's also about separating the alien from the smuggling organization," said Honan.
"The smuggling organizations don't care about safety of lives of the aliens, they care about profit and money," said Honan.
But concern about the U.S. government being able to cover its bills if the debt limit is not raised, has many politicians concern about dramatic cuts across the board.
This program will cost between $9 million and $11 million a year.
"We spend a lot of time and money processing aliens, detaining aliens, if we can cut that number down that saves us money in the long run so it pays for itself," said Honan.
And he says, saving lives has no price tag.
ICE estimates about 95% of the immigrants sent home will not try to cross again.
If they are ever caught in the U.S. again after being removed, it's a federal offense and punishable by up to 20 years in jail.