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Self-deportation program in U.S proves unpopular so far

August 6, 2008 |  9:18 am

As we reported last week, yesterday saw the beginning of a pilot program in which United States federal authorities invited all immigrants living illegally in the United States to turn themselves in and be granted 90 days to leave the country of their own accord.

Anna Gorman reported that immigration officials said the program, called "Scheduled Departure," was in response to criticism from advocacy groups that have said that early-morning raids by armed agents disrupt families and communities.

"We want to show advocacy groups and community-based organizations that we're open to suggestions and we are open to different approaches," said Jim Hayes, acting director of detention and removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hayes said the program could also cut the agency's detention costs, because the immigrants would otherwise be detained if arrested. It could also help reduce the number of immigrant fugitives on the government's list.

But the Associated Press says this morning that so far only one person has taken Immigration and Customs Enforcement up on the offer, which will run through to Aug. 22 in Santa Ana, San Diego, Chicago, Phoenix and Charlotte, N.C.

But by Tuesday afternoon, only one person -- in Phoenix -- took the offer, according to an ICE official who spoke on condition of anonymity because not all the numbers are in. Officials in the other cities said they had no takers by midafternoon.

"'Are people actually doing it? I really find it hard to believe," said Wendy Chavez, 22, of Anaheim, who took her mother for a citizenship test.

Click here to read more on how ICE's self-deportation pilot program is coming along.

For more immigration posts, click here.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City