ICE Wastes $41 million on Deportees in Half Full Charter Planes

A Department of Homeland Security inspector generals’ report shows the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau (ICE) has wasted $41 million by sending deportees away in half full charter aircraft.

The watchdog agency said in a report this month that ICE spent $12 million on charter flights that were less than 40 percent full between October 2010 and March 2014.


All told, auditors found that ICE, which falls under Homeland Security, spent about $116 million on flights that were at least 20 percent under full capacity. Of the nearly 7,500 flights they reviewed, more than one-third were less than 80 percent full.

The IG’s report also shows sloppy recordkeeping and numerous examples of mismanagement of the deportation process.

The report concluded that ICE “may have been able to transport the same number of detainees with fewer missions at a lower charter air cost.”

ICE has access to eight charter aircraft, each of which can hold up to 135 detainees. The agency pays about $8,400 per hour for the flights, regardless of how many passengers are aboard.

Not all detainees fly home on charter flights. ICE transports some of them on commercial airlines, depending upon country of citizenship, criminal status, family situation and other factors.

Auditors found that ICE “does not capture complete and accurate data essential to support operational decisions and ensure effectiveness.”

Records show that ICE picked up or dropped off 23,000 detainees at locations where its charter flights had not flown. In one example, the agency claimed to have removed 54 individuals to Nicaragua, but the flight only stopped in Louisiana, Texas and Guatemala.

Auditors also identified six cases in which ICE moved detainees multiple times between the same cities without documenting why the redundant trips were necessary.