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DOJ suing King County over ban on ICE flights out of Boeing Field

Boeing Field in June 2019. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The federal government is suing King County for banning Immigration and Customs Enforcement from using the King County International Airport, also known as Boeing Field, to deport undocumented immigrants.

The flight ban, which went into effect last spring when King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an order to renegotiate leases on land that flight operators used, has prompted ICE to use an airport in Yakima. The move has resulted in additional costs to drive detainees the 150-mile trip to Yakima.

U.S. Attorney William D. Hyslop explained in a news conference on Monday that the detainees being transported have been deemed a risk to the community’s safety or have been previously deported.

“What we are talking about is illegal immigration, which is prohibited by federal law,” Hyslop said.

According to a report by the Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington, ICE deported 34,000 people out of Boeing Field from 2010-2018, with an average of 360 flights per month.

“When we are talking about sanctuary cities, we are talking about policies that are designed to allow criminal aliens to escape,” Attorney General William P. Barr said Monday during a speech to the National Sheriff’s Association. “Their express purpose is to shelter aliens whom local law enforcement has already arrested for other crimes. This is neither lawful nor sensible.”

The Washington Times reports the Justice Department on Monday also went after New Jersey over a state policy that limits cooperation with Homeland Security and California for banning several ICE detention facilities.

Constantine released the following statement:

It is no surprise that Trump and Barr are bullying King County for being a welcoming community that respects the rights of all people. Our ordinances rightly require that King County facilitate immigration enforcement directives only when accompanied by a valid court order. Mass deportations raise deeply troubling human rights concerns, including separation of families, racial disproportionality in policing, and constitutional issues of due process.

My Executive Order of April 23, 2019, sought to make King County government practices consistent with our region’s values. I am pleased to say local airport operators notified us that they would voluntarily no longer serve charters used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We are already actively engaged in an administrative process with the FAA to resolve our differing interpretations. The Trump administration and Attorney General Barr chose to circumvent this work for the sake of grabbing headlines. The Justice Department initiated a legal fight over our regional airport rather than working with Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. We look forward to our day in court.

Also issuing a statement were Washington Representatives Adam Smith and Pramila Jayapal:

This is another attack by the Trump Administration on communities that have implemented policies that uphold our values. It’s posturing that further politicizes the Department of Justice. No amount of posturing changes the basic facts: Welcoming policies make our communities safer and King County is well within its right not to be involved in federal immigration enforcement activities without valid court orders. The president and his administration must face the reality that our immigration system is broken—and that he has exacerbated every aspect of it during his time in office. We stand ready and willing to work with anyone to enact comprehensive immigration reform, and in the meantime, our communities will not be bullied into complying with nonsensical policies that are based on xenophobic falsehoods.

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