- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2006

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents removed more than 2,300 illegal aliens from the country in the past two weeks on 35 flights to the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia and Africa — one of the busiest periods of the year for ICE’s Office of Detention and Removal Operations.

Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads ICE, said 852 of those removed had criminal records, and that another 21 flights this week will take 2,087 aliens to Central America and the Caribbean, including 515 who are criminal aliens.

“By the end of this week, ICE’s Air Transportation Unit will have facilitated the removal of more than 4,500 illegal aliens in 14 days, including 1,414 with criminal records,” Mrs. Myers said. “Apprehending, detaining and removing criminal and other illegal aliens promotes public safety and protects the integrity of the immigration system.”

This week’s Caribbean/Latin American flights, which are regularly scheduled via the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS) aircraft, are destined to Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Haiti (one).

ICE spokeswoman Kadia H. Koroma said that in addition to the regularly scheduled flights using JPATS, ICE Detention and Removal personnel returned last week from two special charter removal missions: one to Africa that repatriated 82 Nigerian and 17 Liberian nationals, and another that returned 55 Filipinos and 12 Cambodians.

Ms. Koroma said that on the African charter flight more than 60 of those removed had criminal convictions, involving drug-smuggling, possession with intent to distribute drugs, weapons violations, sexual assault on children, burglary and bribery. The group, she said, included 17 Nigerians with forgery and fraud convictions.

She said that of the 55 Filipinos removed, 36 were criminal aliens and that 11 of the 12 Cambodian nationals removed also were criminal aliens. Their crimes included sexual offenses against children, sexual assaults, heroin smuggling, aggravated assault and homicide, she said.

The illegal aliens had been housed at various detention facilities across the country.

In fiscal 2006, ICE removed more than 186,600 illegal aliens from the country, a record for the agency and a 10 percent increase over the number of removals during the previous fiscal year. More than 50,000 of them were repatriated to Central American and Caribbean Basin countries using JPATS.

JPATS, managed by the Justice Department, provides regular international and domestic flights for the removal of deportable aliens. In 1995, the air fleets of the U.S. Marshals Service and the now-defunct U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service merged to create a more efficient and effective system for transporting prisoners and criminal aliens.

JPATS has three client agencies, the Bureau of Prisons, the Marshals Service and ICE, its largest user with more than 60 percent of flight hours during fiscal 2006. JPATS operates a fleet of aircraft that moves prisoners over long distances more economically and with higher security than commercial airlines.

Ms. Koroma said nearly all air movements are done aboard large and small jets that JPATS owns or leases.

She said ICE also manages alien transportation and repatriation flights via special charter missions.

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