ICE Using Deportation Flights to Bring Home US Citizens Stranded in Central America

March 26, 2020 Updated: March 26, 2020

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is using its deportation flights to bring home hundreds of U.S. citizens stranded in Central America due to travel restrictions amid the CCP virus pandemic.

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.

In a statement on March 25, ICE said that along with the State Department, it has worked to bring back a total of 209 United States citizens on the return leg of two deportation flights to El Salvador and Honduras, both of which have closed their borders to stop the spread of the virus. The flights took place on March 22 and 24, allowing Americans stuck in these countries to occupy available seats and return home.

ICE and the State Department will continue to work together to facilitate the safe return of U.S. citizens on future removal flight returns from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and these return operations could also potentially expand to other countries outside of the Northern Triangle, ICE noted.

According to the agency, ICE performs temperature screening on all detainees boarding all deportation flights. Any detainee with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher “will be immediately referred to a medical provider for further evaluation and observation.”

However, the agency did not comment on whether the U.S. citizens being returned from Central America recently are being screened before boarding the flights back to the United States.

The Department of State this week said it has “launched an unprecedented global effort to bring home our citizens from every corner of the globe,” so far repatriating more than 9,000 Americans from 28 countries. That total includes more than 800 from Wuhan, China, where the CCP virus was first discovered, and more than 1,000 Americans from Morocco and Peru, where U.S. officials are working to secure authorization for further flights, as well as authorization for U.S. citizens in more remote parts of Peru to travel to Lima by land or by air.

Another 66 flights are planned over the next nine days with roughly 9,000 Americans scheduled to fly on them, although this number may increase, the department said.

Earlier this month, ICE confirmed a 31-year-old Mexican national being detained by the agency had tested positive for the CCP virus and was being placed into quarantine at the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey, marking the first confirmed case of COVID-19 infection in ICE detention.

The agency said in a statement that those who had come into contact with the detainee have been identified and were being monitored, and no new inmates would be accepted into the facility “until further information is available.”

ICE, which currently has over 37,000 detainees, said it has taken steps to slow the spread of CCP virus among detainees and is “working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal, state, and local agencies to facilitate a speedy, whole-of-government response in confronting Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), keeping everyone safe, and helping detect and slow the spread of the virus.”

Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.