U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the continuation of their Interior Repatriation Initiative (IRI) with the Mexican Ministry of the Interior.
IRI’s goal is to return Mexican nationals to the interior of Mexico to try and reduce the number of attempts to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, according to ICE.
On Thursday, approximately 150 Mexican nationals under ICE detention departed Tucson International Airport, marking the first repatriation flight of 2019, ICE confirmed.
ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) will provide air transportation to Guadalajara International Airport in Guadalajara, Mexico where the government of Mexico will then provide additional transportation to the cities of origin, ICE said.
"The protocols we have in place for IRI flights continue to ensure that those repatriated to Mexico are returned in a safe and expeditious manner, and closer to their homes, to discourage future attempts to cross the border,” ICE Director Matt Albence said.
IRI began as a pilot program in 2012 and was signed as a permanent initiative in April 2013.
"This action disrupts the smuggling cycle by removing Mexican nationals from the border where they would be targeted by criminal gangs and smuggling organizations," Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said. "This is one more initiative that restores integrity to our immigration system."