Self-deport program begins today

U.S. Immigration officials in Charlotte will be at their Tyvola offices Tuesday, the first day of a new federal program urging fugitive illegal immigrants to turn themselves in.

The city was one of five metropolitan areas chosen as a pilot city for the agency's “self-deport” initiative. Illegal immigrants who have been previously ordered to leave the country have until Aug. 22 to report to ICE offices in Charlotte or risk being tracked down at their home or work and jailed.

Nonviolent illegal immigrants without criminal records will have up to 90 days to pull together money and make arrangements to return to their home countries. ICE officials said it ends the risk of sudden arrest for those who qualify and minimizes the impact on loved ones. Amnesty would not be offered as an incentive, and those who turn themselves in might have to wear electronic tracking devices until they leave the country.

Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokesman, said the agency is launching the program because “a lot of people from the community who have contacted us asking for a way to present themselves to schedule their departure instead of being arrested.” Volunteers in the Charlotte area should report to the ICE offices 6130 Tyvola Centre Drive.

It's unclear how many people will take them up on their offer, let alone on the first day. Maudia Melendez, head of Jesus Ministry, a Charlotte advocacy group, said immigrants are still finding out about the program.

“People are very concerned about the monitoring device,” Melendez said. “They don't want to wear something like they're on house arrest. They've already volunteered to leave. Why do they need to do that?”

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