U.S. deportation flights on the rise

Mon Jul 13, 2009 11:41am EDT
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By Tim Gaynor

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemalan mechanic Erwin Baches walked for five days across the desert and broke into the United States in search of the American Dream.

Arrested, jailed and placed on a deportation flight back to Central America on Friday, he is one of a growing number of illegal immigrants being sent home with that dream in tatters.

"I just wanted a better life for my family," said Baches, 35, swiping away tears on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, charter flight to Guatemala City from a Phoenix-valley airport.

"We're all human beings, we all deserve a chance," he added, speaking in Spanish.

Immigration, particularly what to do with millions of illegal immigrants living in the shadows, is a divisive issue in the United States.

As President Barack Obama tries to rally support in the U.S. Congress to revive comprehensive immigration reform this year, his government is removing the United States' unauthorized population at a gathering pace.

ICE's Flight Operations Unit, carrying out a policy begun under former President George W. Bush, has moved an average of 4,200 unauthorized migrants a week this year, up from 3,700 last year.

"I wanted to find a better life, to help my nephew," said Ofelia Alvarado, 33. One of the 92 Guatemalans flown home from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Alvarado had been nabbed after crossing the border from Mexico last month.   Continued...

<p>Juan Sacaria Lopez, an illegal immigrant, boards a plane at a flight operation unit at Mesa airport during his deportation process in Phoenix, Arizona July 10, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>