Protesters want city officials to stop allowing ICE deportation flights out of El Paso airport

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El Paso characterized as springboard for sending asylum seekers to Northen Triangle countries that are not their own

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Immigration activists want the City of El Paso to stop the federal government from using its airport to fly migrants back to Central America.

The activists plan three days of public protests at the airport beginning Tuesday morning.

“Concerned El Pasoans will gather inside the City’s international airport to protest deportation flights that remove hundreds of shackled people weekly to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Very few have criminal records besides immigration violations. Many have no records whatsoever. Many were seeking asylum,” according to protest organizer Debbie Nathan.

The protesters are demanding that the city ban the flights out of the municipally-owned airport in the same manner that other public entities have done recently. In April, King County, Washington, issued an executive order expressing intent to ban deportation flights from King County International Airport

Nathan said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is subcontracting the flights in El Paso to charter airlines that are managed by a company that has done work for other federal agencies, like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and coordinates deportation flights out of several airports.

Raul Munoz works on a platform inside the El Paso International Airport terminal Wednesday, May 26, 2004, in El Paso, Texas. He was plastering a column in what will be the waiting area of the consolidated security checkpoint. (AP Photo/El Paso Times, Victor Calzada)

The protest is being organized by a group of El Paso-area citizens concerned about the federal government’s alleged lack of due process for asylum seekers and other migrants.

In an email to Border Report, airport Chief Operations and Transportation Officer Monica Lombrana said Nathan was granted a permit pursuant to Title 14 of the El Paso Municipal Code for the dates mentioned to allow no more than eight individuals to congregate in two pre-designated areas.

The Department of Justice operates contracted flights in and out of El Paso International Airport but the airport doesn’t track the number of flights, passenger counts of destination of on-demand charter operations, Lombrana said. Because the facility receives federal grants, it is required to make those facilities developed with federal money available for landing and takeoff of U.S. government aircraft.

According to Nathan, El Paso is a major point of expulsion — with about 20,000 migrants a year being deported here each year from 2010 to 2019. Most migrants are sent to the Northen Triangle of Central America — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — countries with very high crime rates where activists say they face the risk of assault and death.

The activists are also concerned about recent federal government policy changes, like the “Third Country” initiative that has resulted in migrants being flown out of El Paso to countries from where they’re not — Hondurans sent to Guatemala, for example. The group recently met in a Central El Paso restaurant where participants expressed concern about family units being included in the flights from El Paso to Central America, which reportedly began in November.

Nathan said the protesters will offer a Posada theme — about a refugee family fleeing the threatened murder of their child — in conjunction with the holiday season.

The protests are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 17-18; and 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 19 near the airport’s Christmas tree.

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