WASHINGTON – Illegal immigrants caught crossing the Mexican border will be offered a free ticket home in the second summer of an experimental Homeland Security Department program, U.S. and Mexico officials said Tuesday.
The so-called repatriation program aims to reduce the chances of migrants re-crossing the porous Arizona border by flying them deep into the interior of Mexico. But immigrants rights groups charge the program is expensive and ineffective.
Officials previously said they hoped to continue the voluntary program a second year, but Mexico had not agreed until Tuesday.
Over a three-month period last summer, at a cost of $15.4 million, U.S. Customs and Border Protection captured 14,067 illegal entrants and flew them to Mexico City and Guadalajara. From there, the migrants were given bus tickets home.
Many were deemed at risk if they tried to cross through the desert again. But critics say the money would be better spent by installing water stations and desert beacons.