Taxpayers pay $8,300, on average, for deportation of criminals

409,000 deported nationwide in 2012

CHICAGO - Taxpayers are paying millions of dollars for airfare for drug dealers, sex offenders and murderers.

U.S. immigration officials are focused on deporting people convicted of serious crimes and making sure they don't return to American neighborhoods.

While an intense immigration debate rages on, thousands of undocumented people are being sent out of the country.

Seats aboard an immigration-charter flight are set aside for an exclusive set of passengers. The terminal at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is a building surrounded by barbed wire.

Thousands of undocumented people from Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri are processed for deportation twice a week.

Before the flight, they are fingerprinted, allowed to withdraw earned commissary money from an ATM and read their rights.

"They know the consequence if they come back without the proper documentation," said Sylvia Bonaccorsi-Manno, assistant director of the Office of Detention and Removal.

Jose Luis Garcia Canales, of South Bend, has drug and gun convictions in Michigan and Indiana.

Despite his record, the father of six children told us the government should let him stay in the U.S. because he plans to return to Indiana.

"If I need to cross the border illegal, I will," he said.

Marciano Jaurez is also going back to Mexico after his involvement in a murder in Illinois in 2007.

Juan Cervantes is getting the boot for the second time. He was deported in 1992 as a 17-year-old boy accused of attempted murder.

In February, Cervantes, who goes by multiple names, was convicted of distributing cocaine in Wisconsin. He denies having sold the drug.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said 90 percent of those being deported have extensive criminal records.

Of more than 409,000 deported people in 2012 nationwide, more than half had been convicted of felonies and misdemeanors.

Most of those convictions involved drug offenses, followed by sex crimes and homicides.

Detainees are outfitted with shackles and handcuffs when the time comes to go to the airport. From a detention facility nearby, it's a 15-minute bus ride to O'Hare, where an airplane is waiting.

Taxpayers foot the bill for about $8,300, on average, to put each person being deported through the process. The funding comes from federal tax revenue. It does not include the time served in prison.

Those being deported take a 2-hour-45-minute flight to Brownsville, Texas, where they board a bus to the border.

"There is no guarantee" deported people will stay out of the U.S., said Gail Montenegro, of ICE. "As with any law enforcement agency, we have to prioritize our resources. We feel that the best use for that is to focus on the worst of the worst."

Officials' priority is placing those convicted of serious crimes on the airplane, though room is made for people arrested on minor crimes, such as traffic violations.

Immigration-chartered flights are scheduled for Tuesday and Friday. Most of those deported are sent to countries in Central America and South America.