Immigration authorities are flying illegal immigrants deep into their native Mexico from Southern Arizona to discourage dangerous crossings in triple-digit desert heat.
The twice-daily flights from Tucson to Mexico City are intended to keep immigrants away from border towns where they would likely run into smugglers who want to sneak them back into the US.
"This is where the probability of losing their lives can really increase. We offer that opportunity for them to get out of that cycle," John Torres, a special adviser to the assistant secretary of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said yesterday in Tucson.
The US Department of Homeland Security flights began Saturday for the sixth straight summer and will end on September 28.
Tucson is the only spot in this country where the flights depart. Arizona is the busiest illegal entry point into the US.
Since 2004, more than 82,000 Mexicans have been returned as part of the repatriation program. The number, however, represents just a small portion of illegal immigrants in this country.
Hundreds of people die crossing the border each year from heat exposure, vehicle and train accidents, fatigue, banditry and other causes.