The Trump administration brought dozens of U.S. citizens back home from Central America on Wednesday using a plane operated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to deport immigrants back to the region.
In a statement released on Thursday, ICE confirmed that 64 U.S. citizens who had requested the government’s help in returning home amid the coronavirus outbreak were able to do so on the return leg of a removal flight via ICE Air Operations.
The agency said the flight had originally been sent to Honduras to deport nationals with final orders of removal from the U.S. to their home country.
However, on its return, U.S. citizens claimed the “Space Available (‘Space A’) seats” of the flight.
“Space A” travel is a term typically applied to when members of the U.S. Uniformed Services and their family members are allowed to travel on aircraft being used by the Department of Defense, when it is possible.
In this case, however, ICE allowed U.S. citizens to board its deportation flight so they could make their way back home.
The agency said that it would continue working with the State Department to facilitate the safe return of U.S. citizens on future removal flights going to and from Central American countries.
ICE suggested it expected to perform similar returns from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These return operations could also potentially expand to other countries outside of the Northern Triangle,” the agency said.
Wednesday’s return flight was carried out shortly after officials with the State Department suggested during a press briefing earlier this week that ICE could soon be helping with bringing Americans stranded abroad back home.
On Tuesday, the State Department said it had already repatriated more than 9,000 Americans from 28 countries in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Officials had also said they were aware of thousands of other American citizens seeking help getting home from abroad.
With many countries tightening or completely shutting down their borders, the State Department has been racing to see as many people repatriated as possible.
The department said it would be working with a number of government bodies in order to help return the thousands of people still looking to come home.
World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
- Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
- Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.
- Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
- Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
- If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
- Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
- Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.
Mask and glove usage
- Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
- Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
- Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
- Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
- Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
- Do not reuse single-use masks.
- Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
- The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.