US quietly resumes deportation flights to Mexico

The United States has quietly resumed deporting some Mexicans on flights that take them away from the southern border, U.S. and Mexican officials said, a move designed in part to discourage them from repeatedly trying to enter the United States.

The first flight to Morelia, a city in central Mexico hundreds of miles from the nearest U.S. border crossing, took off Tuesday with more than 100 Mexicans on board, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details.

A senior Mexican official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said flights were expected to continue as normal.

Tuesday’s flight was the first of its kind in nearly two years. U.S. authorities most commonly deport Mexicans overland, near the border. But the number of Mexicans entering the United States has soared in recent months, prompting U.S. authorities to find more forceful ways to discourage people from making the journey north.

The Biden administration is struggling to contain one of the largest waves of uncontrolled immigration in American history, with people fleeing poverty, political instability and violence in Central America, South America and elsewhere. Last week, President Biden sought to address growing political responsibility by imploring Congress to grant him the power to close the border.

The United States suspended deportation flights for Mexicans in 2022 as officials turned their attention to the spiraling numbers of migrants arriving from countries like Haiti and Venezuela.

But as a wave of deadly violence grips Mexico ahead of next year’s presidential election, more and more residents are fleeing. More than 56,000 Mexicans were arrested by border agents in December, the highest number of Mexicans to cross the border since last spring.

“Mexicans are starting to identify security as an important presidential campaign issue,” said Andrew Rudman, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “So I suspect a lot of that is due to a sense of not being safe where they are.”

The flights don’t just serve as a deterrent. Mexican authorities have requested the flights in the past so that migrants could be returned closer to their homes and so they could avoid crowded border cities. The flights also connect deportees to reintegration services, such as job opportunities and housing.

But migration experts and former immigration officials say the flights also aim to make it harder for people to make a new crossing.

“The benefit to the United States is that it dramatically reduces the likelihood of someone returning illegally,” said John Sandweg, who was a national security official in the Obama administration.

This week’s flight took place a month after senior U.S. officials — including Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, and Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security — flew to Mexico City to strategize to slow down the wave of lawlessness. intersections of activities.

In December, more than 11,000 migrants crossed the border in just a few days, a record.

The Obama administration secured a deal with Mexico to deport Mexicans into the country’s interior in 2012. The program, known as the Interior Repatriation Initiative, came at a time when Mexicans made up the majority of migrants crossing the border and the number of crossings was increasing. significantly lower than that observed today.

From late 2019 to May 2022, more than 46,000 Mexicans were flown into the heart of the country, according to Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights organization.