Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Self Deportation program did not work.
No one showed up Tuesday as a new federal program encouraging Undocumented immigrants to leave the country began a two-week trial, and several Undocumented immigrants said there's no reason to expect anyone will.
"I know people who have been caught and deported. But most are never caught," said Robert Hernandez, a 28-year-old construction worker from Honduras who has lived in the United States Undocumented for four years.
"To turn yourself in so you can go home and live in a village with no work? If I wanted to do that, I would have stayed in my village. I wouldn't have risked my life to come here in the first place."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched Operation Scheduled Departure in five cities, and none found any takers by the day's end.
The self-deportation trial offer is being offered to the nation's 457,000 eligible Undocumented immigrants - fugitives with an otherwise clean criminal history who have been caught and ignored an immigration judge's order to leave. The program runs through Aug. 22 in Charlotte, San Diego, Chicago, Phoenix and Santa Ana, Calif.
Undocumented immigrants who participate will get up to 90 days to pull together money to pay for family members to return home with them and take care of other arrangements. If they don't have enough money for their own ticket home, ICE will cover the tab, said Ivan Ortiz, an agency spokesman in Charlotte to promote the program.
Undocumented immigrants have flocked to the Carolinas during the past decade, as tens of thousands of immigrants have moved to the region to work in construction, agriculture, restaurants, hotels and poultry plants. Robert Alfieri, the supervisory deportations officer in ICE's Charlotte office, said the agency apprehended 900 Undocumented immigrants last year. He said many want to go back home.
"For them, it's getting too hard to hide. They have the stress of looking over their shoulders," he said. "They know there's a lot of law enforcement looking for them. This is their way to go home.
"For anyone to say no one will do it, that's absolutely wrong."
In Charlotte, authorities promoted the program in Spanish-language media, including local radio stations. But Angel Martinez, a 45-year-old construction worker from Mexico City who has lived in the U.S. Undocumented for 15 years, said most Undocumented immigrants will ignore the offer, especially as they "remember what life was like, how hard it was" before they moved to the U.S.
Martinez was waiting outside the ICE office while his 19-year-old son visited a friend inside who had been detained by authorities after he was stopped for speeding and found to be an Undocumented immigrant.
"It's stupid. You would have to be crazy," he said. "Who would want to turn themselves in?"