The Alien Transfer Exit Program Drops Immigrants on the Other Side of the Country


The Los Angeles Times has a story on what happens to some immigrants who are caught illegally crossing the U.S. border. They are not detained, nor are they released right back to where they came from:

Luis Montes slipped across the Rio Grande and had started crawling through a field when a U.S. Border Patrol agent nabbed him. It was a Saturday and the 32-year-old illegal immigrant figured that by Sunday he would be deported back to Mexico, where he would promptly try again to cross into Texas.

Instead, Montes was put on a plane, flown halfway across the country and bused to the California-Mexico border. At 2 a.m. Tuesday, U.S. border authorities took off his handcuffs and escorted him to a gate leading to the desert city of Mexicali.

Montes was back in Mexico, but about 1,200 miles away from where he started.

"This is a great surprise," Montes said as he slipped on his shoes at the dimly lit border crossing

The policy is called the Alien Transfer Exit Program. It's been in effect since 2008, but has been used much more frequently this year. It's supposed to disable human smuggler rings and discourage deportees from instantly re-trying a border crossing. It also leaves people in completely unfamiliar surroundings where they may be vulnerable to crime. 

In spite of policies like this and anti-immigration triumphs, such as the one reported on by Tate Watkins below, the Obama administration is still pleading that they're more humanitarian in their deportations. But as Mike Riggs recently wrote, changing a policy does not suddenly help every immigrant whose status is up in the air.

The Washington Post reports on President Obama's recent, cranky-sounding efforts to retain some of his 2008 Latino support:

During the roundtable, Obama defended his administration's record on deportations, arguing that the government was focused on deporting illegal immigrants who have criminal records and not those who abide by the country's laws and are contributing positively to society.

"The statistics are actually a little deceptive because what we've been doing is with the stronger border enforcement we've been apprehending folks at the borders and sending them back," Obama said. "That is counted as a deportation, even though they may have only been held for a day or 48 hours, sent back. .?.?.So what we've tried to do is within the constraints of the laws on the books, we've tried to be as fair, humane, just as we can, recognizing, though, that the laws themselves need to be changed.

Obama pleaded that he can't reform immigration law by himself. Congress needs to be on his side, especially Republicans. Much of the GOP disagrees with GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry on his supposed soft (hearted) stance on immigration. Perry, to his credit, expressed disapproval over the Alien Exit Transfer Program back in 2009. He seems to have done so because he was worried about Texans and American tax payers, however.

Immigration critics could say hey, at least a policy like this might work! Indeed, the LA Times story says "U.S. officials said only about one-quarter of immigrants deported through the program are encountered again trying to cross the border."

But also in the Times story; Luis Montes, who paid $2,300 to smugglers for his aborted crossing attempt and had to have his wife wire him money for food when he ended up 1000 miles from home, has the last word: "'If someone is committed to crossing, this only makes it a little more difficult,' he said."

In related news, recent stories about drug smugglers who pack marijuana into slightly smaller bundles so it can fit through a chunk of border fence have been a nice, concise demonstration of the utter futility of trying to stop people or goods from moving where they will.

Reason on immigration.