Deportees flown to Mexico City in new US program to bypass border towns


Oct 2 (Reuters) - U.S. immigration officials on Tuesday flew

131 deportees to Mexico City in the maiden flight of a new

program to send illegal immigrants to the interior of Mexico,

rather than border towns where they are more likely to be

exposed to criminals.

The two-month project is a collaborative effort between U.S.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Mexican

Ministry of the Interior, and is geared toward immigrants who

come from the interior regions of Mexico.

In the past, many Mexican nationals deported from the United

States have ended up in northern border towns, despite having no

ties to the region. Deportees placed there have often sought to

re-enter the United States illegally, or have fallen prey to

criminal organizations, federal officials say.

"This initiative will better ensure that individuals

repatriated to Mexico are removed in circumstances that are safe

and controlled," ICE Director John Morton said in a statement.

The first flight with 131 Mexican nationals aboard took off

on Tuesday from El Paso, Texas, bound for Mexico City, ICE said

in a statement.

Once the deportees arrive in the Mexican capital, officials

there are tasked with arranging bus transport to their home

towns, ICE said.

The pilot program will continue until Nov. 29, when

officials will evaluate the results to determine how it might be

applied in the future, said Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for ICE.

Some of the Mexican nationals deported under the pilot

program have criminal histories, and they have been living in

all parts of the United States, Navas said.

U.S. immigration authorities deport about 400,000 illegal

immigrants every year.

The new initiative builds on another program last used

during the summer of 2011, Navas said. Under that program,

illegal immigrants picked up in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona,

which is a key pathway for many migrants first setting foot on

U.S. soil, were also sent back to the interior of Mexico rather

than to border towns.

But unlike that program, which was voluntary, the new

initiative to fly deportees to Mexico City includes migrants who

did not choose that destination. It is not open to deportees who

originally came from the northern states of Mexico, Navas said.

(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Edith Honan and

Sandra Maler)