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US immigration authority abandons voluntary deportation program

[JURIST] The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] Friday abandoned a pilot program [fact sheet; press release] it created to allow certain illegal immigrants to coordinate their removal from the US with ICE without the risk of home raids, arrest or detention. The Scheduled Departure Program was a pilot program [JURIST report] started on August 5 that ran through August 22 in five major cities [program overview], designed for illegal immigrants without criminal records who had ignored official removal orders. The program was considered by many to be a failure after only eight people turned themselves in. It was estimated that 457,000 were eligible for the program, including 30,000 located in the test cities of Charlotte, Chicago, Santa Ana, Phoenix, and San Diego. Jim Hayes [official profile], acting director of ICE's Office of Detention and Removal (DRO) [ICE Operations sheet], did not express disappointment in the program, but told [AP report] the Associated Press Thursday, "Quite frankly, I think this proves the only method that works is enforcement." Immigration rights groups such as Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) [advocacy website] and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles [advocacy website] had expressed doubt about the program from the start, saying there was little incentive for immigrants to turn themselves in. The San Antonio Express has more.

ICE maintains a number of additional initiatives [fact sheet] to combat illegal immigration, including an increased number of raids. In May, 270 illegal immigrants arrested during an ICE-led raid at an Agriprocessors Inc. [corporate website] meatpacking plant in Iowa were each sentenced to five months in prison [JURIST report] and 27 more received probation after pleading guilty to the use of false immigration documents. ICE also carried out a raid in California the same month targeting 495 people who had ignored deportation orders, resulting in the arrest of more than 900 illegal immigrants [ICE press release].

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