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ICE Air Operations

Fact Sheet
April 11, 2014
  • ICE Air Operations (IAO) is the air transportation arm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • IAO is located within the ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). ERO's mission is to identify arrest and remove aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the United States illegally or otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration laws and our border control efforts.
  • IAO supports this mission by providing air transportation services to ERO's 24 field offices, to facilitate the movement of aliens within the United States and also the removal of aliens to destinations worldwide.
  • IAO facilitates the transportation and removal of aliens via commercial flights; and since 2006, it has transported and/or removed hundreds of thousands of aliens using air charter services.
  • IAO procures the majority of its charter flight services from vendors through the General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule. IAO chartered aircraft are a combination of Boeing 737s and MD-80s, capable of transporting 135 aliens. This arrangement provides IAO with cost effective and highly flexible flight services; and as a result, IAO can rapidly adjust to changing requirements such as dates, times and operating locations.
  • Mexican nationals ordered removed from the United States travel on domestic flights from various U.S. cities to Southern tier cities such as San Diego, Calif. and Brownsville, Texas. They are then bused across the U.S.-Mexico border. Other foreign nationals ordered removed are flown from various U.S. cities or IAO hub cities such as Mesa, Ariz., San Antonio, Texas, Alexandria, La., and Miami, Fla., to Central and South America, and other countries.
  • Domestic destinations include Seattle, Wash.; San Francisco, Calif.; Las Vegas, Nev.; El Paso, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Newark, N.J.; New Orleans, La.; St. Paul, Minn.; Omaha, Neb.; Denver, Colo.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Reno, Nev.; Miami, Fla.; Chicago, Ill.; Bakersfield, Calif.; Kansas City, Mo.; Columbus, Ga.; Oakland, Calif.; and Harrisburg, Pa.
  • IAO routinely conducts:
    • Domestic flights to facilitate the transfer, staging and removal of aliens via land ports of entry or for flights abroad;
    • Regularly scheduled repatriation flights to countries with a high volume of removals;
    • Long-range charter flights to countries or regions (including Europe, Africa, and Asia) on an as needed basis; and
    • Special charters to accommodate aliens with serious medical conditions, those who fail to comply with removal efforts, and high-profile removals.
  • The majority of IAO charter flights operate in the United States, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Foreign destinations include: the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Ecuador.

Facts and Figures

In FY2013:

  • IAO removed 189,000 aliens via charter aircraft to 16 countries;
  • IAO managed a total of 257,213 movements via charter aircraft – including removals, returns, and transfers; and,
  • Conducted an average of 43 charter flights per week to foreign and domestic locations.

In FY2012:

  • IAO removed 205,762 aliens via charter aircraft to 42 countries;
  • IAO managed a total of 264,478 movements via charter aircraft, including removals, returns, and transfers; and,
  • Conducted an average of 43 charter flights per week to foreign and domestic locations.

In FY2011:

  • IAO removed 182,655 aliens via charter aircraft to 34 countries;
  • IAO managed a total of 227,835 movements via charter aircraft, including removals, returns and transfers; and,
  • Conducted an average of 38 charter flights per week to foreign and domestic locations.

Commercial Removal Statistics

  • In FY2013, IAO coordinated 2,077 escorted removals and 5,311 unescorted removals via commercial aircraft.
  • In FY2012, IAO coordinated 2,299 escorted removals and 7,474 unescorted removals via commercial aircraft.
  • In FY2011, IAO coordinated 2,522 escorted removals and 9,711 unescorted removals via commercial aircraft.

ICE Air Operations Yearly Comparison