The Scheduled Departure Program
Published August 1, 2008

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) put a puzzling offer on the table last week to immigrants with final orders of removal, deportation or exclusion who never actually departed the U.S.  ICE refers to this group of people as “fugitive aliens”.  The offer is this: Help us deport you.  Hmm.

The program is named “Scheduled Departure” and is offered only to fugitive aliens with no criminal history.  ICE advertises the program as a “compassionately conceived enforcement initiative” because although participants would be deported from the U.S., it would be in a manner in which they could:

  • Turn themselves in rather than being taken into custody and detained. 
  • Schedule their departure date within a 90-day time period.  (IF such a date works with ICE’s schedule and if the participant is paying their own way out of the U.S.)
  • Arrange for their family members to leave the U.S. also “at or around the same time.”

ICE’s press release mentions that, in their efforts to arrest, detain and deport fugitive aliens, it is their priority to go after criminal fugitive aliens who pose a threat to national security.  They also state that about 1/5 of the fugitive alien population have criminal records.  So we could read between the lines that in inviting the greater majority of non-criminal aliens to turn themselves in, ICE is simply asking for help to do something that they don’t have the manpower to make a priority.  On the other hand, it also mentions that they will be increasing their fugitive operation teams in the next two months.  We presume ICE would like to remind fugitive aliens out there that they could be targeted for deportation, criminal history or no, and that it may be more pleasant to turn themselves in.

Long story short, it is important to seriously think about the lasting consequences of deportation from the U.S. before participating in Scheduled Departure.  If you have any questions about how it works, contact an attorney or community organization.

Copyright © 2007-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois