How United States Deportation Flights Work


The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has its own airplane fleet called ICE Air that is used to deport illegal immigrants back to their country of origin. ICE Air charters a range of aircrafts for its missions, depending on where the planes are headed and who’s on board. According to ICE, the agency’s five charter contracts provide up to 10 aircrafts for routine flights, and each aircraft is capable of carrying a maximum of 135 detainees. Last year, ICE Air chartered more than 110,000 people that were removed from the United States. Over the past three years, ICE Air has flown more than 375,000 immigrants to their home countries.

ICE Air even flies immigrants to detention centers across the United States and its routes look as if it were a commercial carrier. Most international ICE Air flights travel to Central America, with Guatemala being the top deportation destination followed by Honduras and El Salvador. Charter flights accounted for about a third of the costs for ICE’s transportation and removal program last year, with ground transportation being the most expensive cost for the program. However, ICE Air isn’t cheap; it cost an average of $1,978 per person last year. According to ICE, a chartered flight costs about $7,785 per flight hour and covers the cost of the aircraft, fuel, pilot, flight crew, security personnel and a nurse. Given President Trump’s tough talk on immigration, it’s easy to assume that more deportations are occurring, however, it appears that the Trump Administration is deporting fewer illegal immigrants than the Obama Administration did.

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