SAN YSIDRO, Calif. - The first flights are now up and flying, as the U.S. kicked off its permanent program to fly deported immigrants deep into Mexico.
"I think it's unfair. It's pulling apart families," said Miguel, an undocumented immigrant.
On Thursday, the U.S. began the so-called deportation flights in which undocumented immigrants are brought in from all across the country and flown from El Paso, Texas, to Mexico City, in hopes of discouraging them from making the long trek back to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Last year, a two-month pilot program sent back 2,364 Mexicans on 18 flights.
Now the program is permanent, but will it work?
Miguel, who crossed illegally into the U.S. 18 years ago, said no.
"I don't think it's going to make a difference; they're still going to try to come back," said Miguel.
He said the journey from Mexico City, although a long one, can easily be made with a three-day bus ride -- a small obstacle for those looking to get back into the U.S.
While illegal immigration levels are at a 40-year low, Miguel said most that are deported are headed back.
"The situation in Mexico with jobs is bad, and they just come here to look for better life," he told 10News.
Miguel said many have no choice but to come back because they have family in the U.S.
Immigrant advocates say the deportation flights may deter some from trying to cross again.
Glen Larsen, a pastor at the Community Church of Poway, said, "Those without family connections would be most affected by that … the ones that end up coming back make the determination that it's worth the risk and heartache to be reunited or to get a job."
There will be two flights a week, each carrying about 130 people.
A representative for Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to talk about the cost.
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