Illegal immigrants get one-way trip home on ICE Air

The MD-80 that took off Friday from Kansas City International Airport carried about 120 passengers. Some were headed for Mexico, others to Central and South America.

Once off the ground, food and beverages would be served.

The flight was one of up to 180 flights flown each month by Kansas City’s only locally based airline. While most are to Central and South America, others are to such exotic locales as Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Palestine.

Yet most Kansas Citians will never get a seat on one of the flights — nor would want to.

The little-known Flight Operations Unit was established by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2006 to handle the repatriation of the surging number of illegal immigrants caught up in tougher enforcement.

In fiscal 2008, which ended Sept. 30, the airline delivered more than 76,000 OTMs (other than Mexicans) back to their homes, a 51 percent jump from two years before. It also delivered about 134,000 Mexicans, mostly to places like San Antonio or San Diego, before they were bused to the border.

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