The Repatriation flight program, officially named "Interior Repatriation Program", was a United States and Mexico government program destined to fly back Mexican citizens who had illegally crossed the frontier between the United States and Mexico to their home country for free.
The program was funded by Arizona taxpayers. It ran from July 12 to September 30 of 2004. It was a pilot program; other American states were planning to develop similar programs. The total number of Mexicans repatriated was over 14,000.
According to United States Border Patrol officials, the program was created to help save lives of those that crossed the desert. They would usually be caught by border patrol police in southern Arizona towns or near the Sonora border, processed, and taken to Tucson International Airport for their flights back home.
The program was ultimately stopped because of cost: tax-payers ended up paying US $15 million during the three-month trial period, amounting to US $1,000 for each passenger. According to the border patrol police, the program helped the number of immigrant deaths around the Tucson area drop by 28 percent, but statistics showed that Arizona had a record number of immigrant deaths in 2004, with 171 dead persons accounted for.
Immigrants caught and flown back to Mexico would usually be taken back to Guadalajara, Jalisco, or into Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City. Despite the conditions of travelling by foot from Mexico to the United States and treatment by coyotes, a survey run at Mexico's largest international airport by a North American newspaper showed that 50 percent of those returned to Mexico by air would be willing to try to return to the United States illegally again.
- "Department of Homeland Security Begins First Interior Repatriation Flights". US Customs and Border Protection. Archived from the original on 2009-11-30. Retrieved 2007-10-24.