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US deportations likely up in FY2020

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MAJURO — At least 33 Marshallese are in detention in the United States awaiting opening of Marshall Islands borders for deportation, making the just-ended fiscal year 2020 possibly a record-setting year for Marshallese deportations from the United States.

Marshall Islands Attorney General Richard Hickson confirmed that this is the number of Marshallese currently being held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers in the United States, according to a report in the Marshall Islands Journal Friday. The individuals in detention are awaiting opening of the border to be sent home by U.S. authorities. The Marshall Islands closed its borders in early March due to Covid-19.

Hickson said US authorities had requested the 33 be given an exemption to return to Marshall Islands. But he said Marshall Islands authorities informed the U.S. that the border remains closed until further notice because of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

One Marshallese detainee recently died of health conditions related to Covid-19 while he was in ICE detention.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is holding 33 Marshall Islanders waiting for this western Pacific nation's borders to re-open in order to deport them. ICE photo

Since fiscal year 2020 began in October 2019, if Marshallese were deported during the five months the Marshall Islands border was open, between October and early March, then FY2020 deportations from the U.S. could set an all-time record.

The highest number of deportations in one year is 35, which occurred in both FY2018 and FY2016.

A total of 202 Marshallese were deported from the U.S. during the seven-year period from FY2013 to FY2019, an average of 29 per year. Crimes for which Marshallese are deported include violence such as sexual assault and murder to fraud involving money theft or failing to appear for scheduled court hearings.

ICE normally issues its annual fiscal year report on deportations at the end of the calendar year.

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