U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced today the launch of a pilot program, Scheduled Departure, which will begin next week in five cities. The program allows fugitive aliens who have no criminal history and pose no threat to the community an opportunity to remain out of custody while they coordinate their removal with ICE.
The program complements ICE’s Fugitive Operations Program which targets fugitive aliens for arrest and removal from the United States. ICE’s fugitive operations teams give top priority to cases involving fugitive aliens who pose a threat to national security and community safety; and thus far in FY 2008, they arrested more than 26,000 fugitives and other immigration status violators. There are 90 active fugitive operations teams, with 15 more scheduled to be deployed in the next two months.
Those with families can particularly benefit from this program. It allows qualifying aliens to make removal arrangements without being held in custody, which will ease their transition and minimize the impact of their removal on their loved ones. In addition, ICE will allow eligible participants to arrange for their families to depart together, should they so desire.
According to ICE, By coming forward and participating in the program, ICE will no longer consider the alien to be a flight risk. An ICE fugitive is defined as an alien who has failed to depart the United States based upon a final order of removal, deportation, or exclusion from a U.S. immigration judge, or who has failed to report to ICE after receiving notice to do so. Only non-criminal fugitive aliens are eligible for the program and will be screened by an ICE officer when reporting to verify status.
ICE officers will update immigration databases, and explain supervision requirements to eligible aliens. Aliens who qualify would be allowed to remain in the community with a reporting requirement or an electronic monitoring device. Since all situations are unique, an ICE officer will notify the alien of the next steps to take for removal.
Aliens who are able to provide for their own removal would have the flexibility to make their own travel arrangements within a 90-day time period. ICE will work with eligible aliens who are not able to provide for their travel; however, ICE will maintain control and schedule the travel arrangements in these specific cases.
ICE will allow eligible participants to arrange for their families to depart together. U.S. citizens or aliens with a legal immigration status cannot be removed by ICE from the United States; however the relatives of the non-criminal fugitive alien being removed are welcome to make their own travel arrangements to depart at or around the same time, if they choose to join their relative. These are personal decisions made by each individual family.
At this time, Aliens who have not previously been encountered by immigration officials (i.e. entered illegally, without inspection, or “EWI”) or who have criminal records, or are determined to be a danger to the community are not eligible for this program and may be arrested and taken into custody if they report to ICE.