President Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to make headway on his promise of overhauling immigration enforcement. In February memos released by Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly lifted most of the restrictions that served the purpose of protecting people who are illegally in the United States. The policy change created a culture throughout the agency where anybody who the customs agency says has committed a crime can be deported.
Included in the memo were directives to target people who have been charged with but not tried for a crime, those who have not been charged for but are believed to have committed a chargeable criminal offence and those who commit minor infractions like driving without a license.
The path to deportation can be long and an immigration judge's decision can be appealed and make it all the way up to the Supreme Court. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement field officers can also grant a stay of removal, making it take even longer for the deportation to occur.
Though the deportation process sounds as easy as just walking someone across the border, it's a little bit more complicated than that. The home country of the deportee needs to be contacted and the logistics need to be planned.
Deportation isn't just unmoral, it hurts the economy.
To get a mortgage, credit card or car loan in the United States, you don't need to show proof of citizenship. If we assume that 10% of the 11 million immigrants in the US have an average of $5000 credit built up, that's $5.5 billion gone if they're sent packing.
Will their home country take them back?
The most important step is making sure that their home country will actually accept them back. Officials need to secure a travel document from the country — essentially a promise that the person is welcome once they're removed from the United States.
How do we remove them?
Depending in the geographic location of the unauthorized immigrant, there's a few ways they may be removed. Mexican nationals are typically flown to border cities like Phoenix or San Diego where they are then driven to the border in a bus or van and leave the country from there.
People from other countries are taken to a removal operations centre in one of 24 cities where they're flown to their destination.
What's the journey like?
Deportees are shackled by the wrists and ankles on commercial and charter flights if they're being escorted, a decision which is based on if they have a history of violence or if they could be a danger to others. Shackles around the wrists only come off when they're using the washroom or eating.
The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency has its own air transportation arm that organizes multiple charter and commercial flights per day to countries with many deportees, such as El Salvador and Honduras.
Regardless of the amount of passengers, it costs the agency approximately $8,500 per flight hour for charter flights. This money gets billed directly to taxpayers.
What happens after they arrive?
Deportees are usually removed with nothing more than the clothing on their bodies (minus their belts and shoelaces to protect their safety). They're deported without their belongings: think phones, wallets and ID, and suddenly they're undocumented in their home country. If the deportation is expedited, the belongings will be returned, except any contraband. Customs and Border Protection is required to return belongings if it hasn't been 30 days since apprehension. Things have a habit of 'disappearing' when people are transferred between facilities and though the CBP has policies in place to protect people's belongings, they're rarely enforced. After being released, they also have 30 days to work with Mexican consular officers to get their property back from the United States. Once their goods are returned to their own countries, they're not shipped to their houses; instead, they must travel to the nearest government office which can be hours away.