The cold reception given to three-week pilot federal self-deportation program, called Scheduled Departure, presents an apt metaphor for the state of relations between U.S. enforcement officials and immigrant advocates in the year since Congress killed President Bush’s proposed overhaul, says the Washington Post. Since lawmakers rejected Bush’s plan to combine tougher enforcement with a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and more guest workers for industry, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have stepped up raids at workplaces, in neighborhoods and in homes. That has triggered a fierce backlash from immigrant advocates, labor and religious leaders, and Hispanic and civil rights groups, who say the administration is coddling employers while brutalizing families and abusing immigrant communities.
Scheduled Departure is aimed at illegal immigrants who are living here in violation of deportation orders — people the government calls “fugitive aliens.” About 457,000 of 570,000 fugitive aliens may qualify, ICE said, although the pilot is set to run only until Aug. 22 in Charlotte, Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, and Santa Ana, Ca. “I don’t think most of the people will take this chance,” said Rafael, a 17-year-old illegal immigrant from Raleigh, N.C. “I think people like living in this country,” he said. Only three people have signed up for the program in Charlotte so far.