Immigration officials in Phoenix and four other cities will begin an experiment today to urge people with deportation orders to turn themselves in, says the Arizona Republic. It’s part of a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement program called Operation Scheduled Departure. It hinges on this bargain: An immigrant who ignored a deportation order and doesn’t have a criminal record walks into an ICE office and agrees to be deported. In return, ICE agents won’t arrest him or his family on the spot or in the dead of night and will give them up to three months to arrange their departure.
Immigrants caught living illegally in the U.S. typically have been brought before a judge. Routinely, judges have ordered them to be deported, then released them pending their deportation date. But many ignored the orders, remaining in the country. Now, a national crackdown on illegal immigration threatens their shadowy status, and a weak economy makes staying less attractive. About 457,000 scofflaws are eligible under the new ICE experiment. “It’s a joke. I can’t think of a single client – and I have hundreds – this will appeal to,” said Nic Suriel, a Phoenix immigration attorney. The experimental program, scheduled to end Aug. 22, also is taking place in Chicago; Charlotte, N.C.; and Santa Ana and San Diego, Ca.