Chicago deportees face a long way home

by Maggie Hyde
March 03, 2010


Every Tuesday and Friday a chartered Boeing 737 leaves Chicago O’Hare International Airport full of passengers with one-way tickets.

The plane ride toward the U.S.-Mexico border is the end of a long trip for illegal immigrants being deported from the Chicago area. Some travel to as many as five different places before they ever fly south.

Gail Montenegro, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, explained what happens to illegal immigrants after they are arrested.

First, immigrants are fingerprinted and interviewed at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility at 101 W. Congress Pkwy. They then attend a hearing at either the ICE building or in the immigration court on 55 E. Monroe St..

Some immigrants can then go free before their deportation date. But those who are deemed likely to flee, who have a criminal record or who choose to fight deportation are held in county area jails.

County jails are all turned into a waiting room of sorts for deportees. Institutions like McHenry County Correctional Facility, Dodge County Correctional Facility, Tri-County facility in Southern Illinois, and the Kenosha County Correctional facility in southern Wisconsin have a contract with ICE to hold detainees awaiting deportation.

Detainees are placed in jails depending on where there is the most bed space.

Deportees can be held in federal facilities for up to six months from their hearing date and deportation. Some illegal immigrants who challenge their deportation can be held longer.

Once the deportation orders are finalized, detainees return to Chicago to be re-processed at ICE’s facility on Broadview Street before they board the plane at O’Hare.

Some deportees from other countries are placed on commercial flights. Deportees with a criminal history are accompanied by a U.S. marshal.

A division of the U.S. Marshal’s Service, known as the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System, charters the flights for ICE.

Planes that leave O’Hare each week are just two of the many that leave from 70 to 80 sites around the country with deportees on board, said Dorthothy Zinnert, chief of the department of scheduling for JPAT.

Flights land at different border towns for security reasons, Zinnert said.

If the flight lands at night, the deportees are held at another immigration facility close to the border.

“They don’t release them across the border after dark,