EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – More than 100 Guatemalan migrants who failed to establish legal grounds to remain in the U.S. were flown back to their country on a charter airplane taking off from El Paso International Airport on Thursday.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said the public can expect such flights to continue – as needed – under Title 8 immigration procedures, which resumed on May 12 after Title 42 public health expulsions ended a day earlier.
Thursday’s flight included 112 Guatemalan nationals. They ranged in age from 18 to 49, with 75 of them male and 37 female.
The migrants arrived at the airport on white, unmarked buses with tinted windows and stepped down a few at a time. They walked out in shackles, and they boarded the airplane that way.
ICE officials explained that hand and leg cuffs are part of the flight security protocol. Usually, up to 138 migrants board the repatriation planes escorted by a handful of ICE agents and some security guards. A paramedic also is onboard in case of medical emergencies during the 4.5-hour flight.
The Enforcement and Removal Operations branch of ICE is set to schedule repatriation flights out of El Paso whenever U.S. Customs and Border Protection transfers to their custody more than 100 nationals of any one country subject to removal. The chartered airplanes can accommodate between 100 and 138 passengers, ICE officials said.
If the group is not large enough for that, migrants will be flown to other U.S. cities – Phoenix or Laredo, Texas, for instance – to join other groups there for a later flight.
(Chantal Sansores of KTDO Telemundo 48 contributed to this report.)