Department of Homeland Security to Begin Pilot Program for Voluntary Interior Repatriation of Mexican Nationals

New Page 1

For Immediate ReleaseOffice of the Press SecretaryContact: 202-282-8010or U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 202-927-8727June 29, 2004

In an effort to reduce the cycle of illegal border crossing and the violenceassociated with human smuggling, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security todayannounced an bilateral agreement between the United States and Mexicoestablishing principles for a voluntary repatriation program. Under thisinterior repatriation pilot program, Mexican nationals will be given the optionof returning to their place of origin when apprehended for illegal entry.

Beginning in July, illegal Mexican migrants may volunteer for the program,returning home via charter aircraft from Tucson, Arizona to either Mexico Cityor Guadalajara. Bus transportation will then be provided to their finaldestination.

The goal of this program is to save lives by safely returning Mexicannationals to their homes, away from the dangers of the Arizona-Sonora desertwhere smugglers and the harsh summer climate contribute to the deaths andinjuries of illegal border crossers, said Homeland Security Under Secretaryfor Border and Transportation Security, Asa Hutchinson.  This is a wellcoordinated, crucial step that serves as another milestone in the Arizona BorderControl (ABC) Initiative and highlights our continued efforts to save lives onthe border.  

The Mexican government will support these life-saving efforts by increasingits consular presence in Arizona.  It will be administered by officers ofthe U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Immigration andCustoms Enforcement (ICE).  The U.S. consul in Nogales, Mexico, willcoordinate repatriation requirements with the Mexican consul in Nogales,Arizona.

The key elements of the agreements are:

  • The program will observe the applicable laws of both countries as well as international conventions and will ensure that Mexican nationals will be repatriated in a safe, humane and dignified manner.  
  • The program is available only to Mexican nationals.  Migrants charged with a crime (other than illegal entry) are not eligible for the program.
  • A migrant who expresses his or her willingness to be repatriated to their place of origin in the interior of Mexico to CBP officers or ICE agents will be referred to the Mexican Consul.  
  • The Mexican Consul will interview the person and confirm that he or she wants to be returned home to the interior of Mexico.
  • Those migrants who decline repatriation to their place of origin in the interior of Mexico will be repatriated to the northern border of Mexico through regular means.
  • Department of Homeland Security officers will not handcuff nor restrain Mexican nationals repatriated under this program unless exceptional safety conditions warrant it in an individual case.
  • The program will be limited to the Arizona Sonora region.
  • The program will end no later than September 30.  At its conclusion, the two governments will evaluate the repatriation program and recommend future plans.