Posted 5:29 PM 9/10/2012 : Border Patrol stops repatriation flights for illegal immigrants
TUCSON - A program to fly illegal immigrants back to Mexico is coming to an end.
The government's repatriation program stretches over seven years but the pricetag is finally cutting off its future. It's a move that the government says will save big money.
The free flights have cost taxpayers almost $100 million since 2004. With border-crosser arrests at a 40-year low, the Border Patrol is discontinuing the trips from Tucson to Mexico City.
Carrying more than 125,000 people over the past seven years, taxpayers have footed the bill for each individual boarding pass -- at 724 dollars a pop.
The flights started out as a humanitarian effort, in response to the large number of illegal immigrants dying as they tried to cross the desert.
They quickly became a key component of Border Patrol enforcement in Arizona.
Many illegal immigrants initially opposed the program, but after facing still penalties and jail time, many opted to take the flight back to Mexico City, far away from a second chance at crossing the border illegally.
"I've always though the repatriation program was a whole P.R. program," said Isabel Garcia, of the immigrant rights groups Derechos Humanos.
"A very costly public relations ploy," Garcia told News 4 Tucson.
Garcia says the program was more of a waste of taxpayer money than anything.
"I think it's time for the American public to relaly look at the expenditures that we have irresponsibly allocated to the Border Patrol, to the federal court because now what they said is that we're going to prosecute them [illegal immigrants] instead," Garcia said.
U.S. and Mexican officials acknowledge that the flights may be reinstated but it is unlkely for that to happen this year.
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