Biden Admin Resumes Cuban Deportations amid Protester Crackdowns

by RANDY CLARK 12 Aug 2021

On Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Air Operations flew two flights to Havana in what has become a regular pattern of repatriation for Cubans.

The repatriation flights are conducted by Swift Air LLC, part of the iAero group, a private company under contract to ICE to move migrants within the United States and return them to their home countries. The company boasts a fleet of 33 aircraft, mostly Boeing 737s.

Since July 29, there have been eight repatriation flights from Miami to Havana, occurring on Thursdays and Fridays. The earliest occurred on June 17 when a single round trip flight from Miami to Havana occurred.

The flights are not repatriating migrants interdicted at sea. In those cases, Cubans found by the Coast Guard are repatriated immediately without being brought to the United States. Those arrested at sea are not allowed to apply for asylum and are taken back to Cuba without delay.

The Boeing 737-800 models and are capable of seating up to 162 passengers. The flights are more than likely repatriating detained nationals with final orders of removal. The flights, which regularly occurred prior to January 2021 were suspended due to COVID-19 concerns.

Many hoped the Biden Administration would not restart the repatriations considering the current civil unrest on the island. The recent protests against President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s were met with harsh actions by the Cuban government. Cuban law enforcement strikes fear in the country as they move to identify and detain protest organizers. In a recent Breitbart News report, an estimated 800 people are currently being detained for participating.

In a joint, multinational statement, the U.S. State Department and 20 other nations condemned the mass detainment.

Despite the acknowledgement of heavy-handed tactics by the Cuban Government, four days after the statement was released, on July 29, three repatriation flights delivered Cubans to Havana. The Cuban nationals are not afforded the treatment that 600,000 migrants from 12 countries currently receive under a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) order.

A request for information concerning the repatriation flights to Cuba remains unanswered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as of press time.