The largest group of Cuban nationals to be removed on a single flight in recent years occurred Aug. 30. Officers with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) removed 120 Cuban nationals to Havana, Cuba on an ICE Air Operations (IAO) charter mission. The repatriation operation was conducted in accordance with the Joint Statement signed by the United States and Cuban governments Jan. 12, 2017.
Of the other 120 aliens ERO removed, 39 were Failure to Comply (FTC) subjects who previously resisted removal attempts. One particularly egregious individual on the flight was an aggravated felon who possessed convictions for First Degree Kidnapping with Use of a Deadly Weapon, Sexual Assault With Use Of A Deadly Weapon, and Trafficking In Controlled Substance – crimes for which he earned sentences of 15 years, 25 years, and 12 months in prison.
The large removal charter is made all the more significant given Cuba’s longstanding status with respect to accepting the return of Cuban nationals ordered removed from the United States and abiding by key provisions of the January 12, 2017 U.S.-Cuba Joint Statement. Cuba has a long history of being deemed an “uncooperative” country, using the Removal Cooperation Initiative (RCI) Tool.
With the charter flight’s high number of removals, ERO Miami Field Office contributed ten Special Response Team (SRT) operators to ensure adequate mission security onboard the flight.
The successful execution of this removal operation to Cuba illustrates ERO Headquarters’ ability to seamlessly coordinate with both ERO Field Offices as well as our international law enforcement partners to effect ERO’s removal mission to even the most diplomatically challenging countries.