Deportation airlines

18 Oct 2008 | 367 words | border united states airtravel migration

Deportee boarding a ICE air flight to Guatemala city at Mesa, AZ airport. (photo Michael Schennum/Wall Street Journal)

We have had the deportation class and the deportation alliance but we never really had a proper deportation airline. Seems they have one in the US (land of the free?) though: The Wall Street Journal has a rather surreal article about ‘ICE air’ (ICE stands for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the Department for Homeland Security). ICE air (officially they use ‘repatriation’ as a callsign) is a subsidy of the ICE and currently operates a fleet of 10 aircraft operating out of 4 US hubs. the airline primarily flies to latin america (‘three daily flights to guatemala city’) and exclusively transports deportees. The article portraits it as if it was just another airline and puts great stress on the service and comfort enjoyed by the deportees:

In-flight service is polite. “For a lot of these immigrants, it has been a long journey to the U.S.,” said Michael J. Pitts, chief of flight operations for deportations and removals at ICE. “This is going to be the last impression they have of the United States. We want to provide good service.”

[we could probably argue that this copies our deporation.class concept from almost 10 years ago, but then they seem to have failed to implement a ICE points system along the lines of the active miles loyalty programme].

What makes the article so surreal is the focus on efficiency and the constant comparisons to regular commercial airline operations [culminating in this info-graphic illustrating the hub and spoke concept] without ever touching the obvious question: what are these planes flying back to the US? Cocaine? Stranded US citizens on vacation? cheaply made goods from outsourced production facilities? Kind of reminds me of Darwin’s Nightmare

On the other had the article also seems to suggest that these deportation flights are an important component of the migration systems between central america and the US: the inbound trip may cost you a substantial amount of money but your return tickets are free and you still get at lunch box containing ‘a bologna sandwich, potato chips, orange juice and a bag of carrots’