Deportation flight from Valley sends migrants to Colombia

Jun. 1—Only have a minute? Listen instead

HARLINGEN — Shuffling in shackles, 28 men and women climbed stairs to board a Boeing 737, taking a deportation flight to their home country of Colombia.

Deportations are up this year.

Last week, federal officials deported about 12,500 migrants, Blas Nunez Neto, assistant secretary of border immigration policy for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, told reporters June 1 off the runway outside Gulf Aviation near Valley International Airport.

So far this year, the government has deported more than 43,000 migrants, on track to beat the 72,177 deported last year, government spokeswomen said at the media event.

'Afforded due process,' ordered deported

At about 7 a.m. June 1, a bus carrying the 28 Colombian migrants parked near the jet before agents frisked the men and women, their wrists cuffed and ankles shackled before boarding the Boeing 737.

After their arrests in South Texas, the men and women were held in detention centers in Laredo, Taylor and Dilly before they were ordered to be deported, spokeswomen said.

"They have all been afforded their due process and ordered to return to their home country," an official who withheld his name told reporters.

Just after 8 a.m., the jet carrying 24 men and four women was bound for Alexandria, La., where it was scheduled to pick up 104 Colombians on its way to an undisclosed city in their home country, spokeswomen said.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman declined to disclose the government's annual number of deportation flights and their overall costs.

Return to Title 8

On June 1, officials with the the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection were in town less than three weeks after the government lifted its Title 42 program, a policy launched in March 2020 allowing officials to stop migrants, including those claiming asylum cases, from entering the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Since lifting the policy May 12, the government has returned to its enforcement of its so-called Title 8 program.

"Under Title 8, those who attempt to enter the United States without authorization, and who are unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States, such as a valid asylum claim, are subject to additional long-term consequences beyond removal from the United States, including bars to future immigration benefits," the Department of Homeland Security states.

Since the government lifted Title 42, officials are reporting a 70 percent drop in the number of migrants entering the country, Nunez Neto told reporters.

Border crossings down

Since last year, the number of migrants entering the country has dropped, according to Customs and Border Protection's website.

From October to April, agents have arrested 1.4 million migrants along the Southwest border, the agency's statistics show.

During fiscal year 2022, they arrested 2.37 million, up from 1.7 million in 2021, the report shows.


To see more, view Brownsville Herald photojournalist Denise Cathey's full photo gallery here: