Big Surprise - Operation Scheduled Departure a Bust

Friday, August 22, 2008
George Tzamaras

WASHINGTON, DC - To the surprise of no one, ICE announced today that, due to lack of interest, it would not be continuing its "Operation Scheduled Departure." This so-called "Operation" asked people who had been subject to a final order of deportation to turn themselves in for removal. After spending over $40,000 just on advertising the program, ICE announced that a grand total of eight people responded in the five cities in which the "Operation" was conducted.

Why is this result no surprise? Because no incentive was provided that would have made this program more attractive than just leaving on one's own.

"To call the effort half-hearted would give ICE half a heart too much credit," said Charles Kuck, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). "It was never anything more than a public relations ploy so that ICE could say in the end 'gosh, we tried, but no one turned up, now we can go back to doing enforcement our way,' which is precisely what they are now saying. It was never a serious effort."

"Had the government applied the resources and attention it gave to this so-called operation to improving their detention conditions, enhancing alternative detention options, or beefing up the immigration court system, some small progress to a workable system might have been made," said Kuck. "Instead, ICE is concentrating on PR ploys in order to justify the heavy-handed tactics that have marked its more recent operations."

Let it not be said, as ICE officials have, that AILA does not want the immigration laws enforced. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Our immigration laws must be enforced; anything else is a mockery of our system. But, that enforcement must come with forethought and a respect for not only the constitutional rights, but the basic human rights of all individuals. Hauling non-criminal "fugitives" out of their houses in their underwear at 6:00 a.m., in front of their crying children, in order to hold them for 8 weeks in detention before actually deporting them, is not an effective or humane enforcement of the civil immigration laws.

Ultimately, the problem remains that the U.S. has a severely broken immigration system. AILA calls upon Congress and the Administration to formulate meaningful reform that provides a safe, orderly and rational means to obtain legal status and thus a focused prism for keeping out and removing those individuals who should be removed from the United States.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members. For more information call George Tzamaras at 202-507-7649 or Annie Wilson at 202-507-7653.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 08082275.