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TA ANA, Calif. (Map, News) - Wanted: Illegal immigrants with clean records who have ignored court orders to leave the country. Immigration officials are standing by to help you leave the country. No jail. No joke.
That invitation drew hardly any takers Tuesday on the first day of a new federal "self-deportation" program that offered 457,000 eligible illegal immigrants the chance to turn themselves in, get their affairs in order and leave the country without being detained.
The tepid response only reinforced doubts about an idea that has drawn criticism and even ridicule from both sides of the immigration debate.
"You would have to be crazy - who would want to turn themselves in?" said Angel Martinez, a construction worker who waited Tuesday outside ICE's Charlotte, N.C., office while his son visited a friend detained on immigration violations.