Since the inauguration of President Biden there have been 3,864 likely ICE Air flights, almost 25% above the pre-inauguration pace in November/December 2020. Of these, 601 were removal flights and if lateral flights (effectively removal flights) are added it jumps to 871 (page 19). To be fully transparent, encounters in November/December 2020 averaged 73,000 compared to 209,000 in August 2021 (pages 8,9,10).
Removal flights in September were a stunning 193, almost 2x last month at 99. HOWEVER, if we add the 39 lateral flights in September to El Paso, San Diego and Tucson that are effectively removal flights, effective removal flights would be a mind-numbing 232, 100 (76%) over the prior 20-month high in October 2020 (pages 7,15).
Four recently implemented removal initiatives by air, the massive Haiti expulsion program, direct expulsion flights to Guatemala, expulsion flights to southern Mexico, and expedited removals, when added to the lateral flights, have propelled the burgeoning removal flights.
70% of the removal flights in September are attributed to flights to Guatemala and the T42 flights to Haiti, Villahermosa and Tapachula.
Haiti received 58 expulsion flights in September, 57 of which came on, or after, Sunday, September 19 (pages 12, 16). Never before, since we began recording in January 2020, has a country received this many removal flights in one month, much less in 12 days. The closest was Guatemala in February 2020 with 45 over the entire month. Haiti removal flights represented over ½ the removal flights since 19 September.
In the 57 planes landing in September, after 19 September, there were 6,131 people expelled under Title 42 with no opportunity to assert a case for protection.
As reported by Amelie Barón of AFP, in the 37 flights over the 7 1/2 months of February through mid-September there were 2,140 people returned to Haiti, only about 1/3 of the number returned in 12 days in September.
Many families were expelled to Haiti. Based on IOM information, as of this date, 52% were men, 26% women, 11% girls and 11% boys.
38 of the 57 flights between 19-30 September landed in Port-Au-Prince and 19 in Cap-Haitien. 29 departed from Harlingen, TX and 22 from Laredo, TX. There were 4 from San Antonio, TX, 2 from Brownsville, TX and 1 from Alexandria, LA (diverted from El Paso). All before 24 September (page 16).
As of 10 October, there were 71 expulsion flights since 19 September, with over 7,500 people expelled. The massive expulsion program began to wind down on 3 October with just 6 flights over the next 6 days. Daily trend and an analysis of the to and from locations for planes and people on page 12.
We have serious concerns about the exportation of COVID to Haiti, a country with a paucity of medical facilities and services. We understand everyone is tested when they return, but we do not understand the quarantine situation. Moreover, how many people could have been infected on these capacity flights and test as negative at arrival, only to become ill days later?
It’s sadly ironic that the very reason (Title 42) for expelling these people is based on health safety, yet these expulsions create immense risk for just the same reason. Is the risk acceptable because it’s in another country?
ICE Air T42 direct expulsion flights to Guatemala began on 2 September. In September there were 34 flights to Guatemala, up from 10 in August. We do not know how many people on these flights were under Title 42 but it would be a substantial number given the increase in August and prior 6 months when there were 3-5 per month.
Moreover, based on data from the Government of Guatemala, returns from the US by air in September will be about 3,350 compared to 587 in August and 374 in July. Some of this increase may also be related to the re-initiation of expedited removal on 30 July. It is our understanding that Guatemala is the only Northern Triangle (NT) country now receiving direct T42 flights, but total flights to Honduras and El Salvador were up substantially from 18 to 31, with Honduras at 20 (up 6) and El Salvador at 11 (up 7). Perhaps expedited removals.
T42 Expulsion flights to Southern Mexico of Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans and maybe Nicaraguans to the cities of Villahermosa and Tapachula, began on 5 August and have continued with flights to each city virtually every weekday all month and through September. In August there were 36 flights and in September there were 42 for a 2-month total 0f 78. In September, all flights departed from McAllen and there were 22 to Villahermosa and 20 to Tapachula.
Once the people expelled reach these cities, Mexico subsequently expels them by foot into desperate and dangerous situations in Guatemala, especially El Ceibo, Guatemala, with modest temporary services now provided by Guatemala, which stated it would support returns to El Ceibo until the end of September. Then those returned would most likely be taken by bus to a reception center similar to that in Tapachula where Guatemala seems to be receiving expelled migrants from Tapachula by INM bus at the reception center at Tecun Uman, about 40km from Tapachula.
Flights to the interior of Mexico, excluding Tapachula and Villahermosa fell significantly in September when the flights to Haiti escalated. We suppose because of plane inventory needs. There were only 8 total flights to Mexico City, Guadalajara and Morelia compared to 17 in August, and all before September 17. It will be interesting to see if these flights ramp up now that the massive expulsions to Haiti have ramped down.
Lateral flights of 39 were down 35 from August, and similar to July. Destinations continued to be San Diego (19), El Paso (14) and Tucson (6), for flights generally carrying 135 people with about 100 from each flight expelled by foot into Mexico. (page 7).
Since lateral flights started in March there have been 270 lateral flights through August resulting in up to 27,000 family members transported almost exclusively from the RGV where they were encountered and then flown to a western city and expelled into Mexico (page 7).
Lateral flights have ramped up in October with around 20 already through the 9th, 14 of which have departed from Yuma to El Paso or San Diego, a significant change from when the vast majority originated from the Rio Grande Valley.
Shuffle flights, those domestic flight legs not connected to an international return flight, dropped to 350 (24%) in September from a record 458 in August, and very similar to July at 344. The drop in lateral flights mentioned above accounted for almost 70% of the decrease from August when connection flights linked to laterals are considered.
Mexico Operated Removal Flights to Northern Triangle countries were similar in September to August with 5 to Guatemala compared to 4 in August and 10 to Honduras compared to 12 in August. We observed no flights to El Salvador in either month. It appears these deportation flights began very modestly in April and more regularly in May. Since May we have observed 50 flights from Mexico to Honduras, 27 to Guatemala and 3 to El Salvador (page 11).
Internal Mexico flights to Tapachula were also similar in September with 29 in September compared to 31 in August, essentially averaging 1 per day with some days 2 and others 0 (page 11).
We must note that tracking Magnicharter flights (Mexico’s ICE Air) is tricky because they do not file flight plans visible to US applications and often seem to fly without transponders operating. The international flights are somewhat easier and, based on observations on the ground, we capture Tapachula flights quite accurately. However, there is no visibility of internal Mexico Villahermosa flights and we know they operate.