An aircraft is pictured at King County International Airport, also known as Boeing Field. Photo courtesy of kingcounty.gov

An aircraft is pictured at King County International Airport, also known as Boeing Field. Photo courtesy of kingcounty.gov

King County wants to end deportation flights for ICE

Legal challenge expected from federal government.

Federal immigration authorities have used King County’s Boeing Field to deport roughly 34,400 people over the past eight years, a practice which the county hopes to end.

County officials gathered at the King County International Airport just south of Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood on April 23 for a press conference announcing their intention to limit Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) access to county-owned facilities. Airport director John Parrott said he was given a mandate by King County Executive Dow Constantine to uphold the county’s policy of refusing to work with ICE.

When the airport was deeded to the county from the federal government in the 1940s, it came with stipulations that it provide service for federal agencies. However, ICE has established a practice of using private contractors for its flights and not government aircraft. The county worked with the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights over the past eight months and released a report on April 23 about the practice.

The report was created through reviewing more than 1.7 million documents obtained by UW from the Alien Reparation Tracking Service database between 2010 and 2018. The report stated around 34,400 people had been deported through Boeing Field on 466 flights in an eight-year period.

The highest level of deportations was recorded in 2011, with around 544 people per month, according to the report. This dropped to a low of 238 in 2015 with an average of roughly 360 people pushed through the airport every month. However, the report noted that under the Trump administration, the numbers were beginning to trend upward, but still had not reached levels seen under the Obama administration.

The report found the majority of flights from Boeing Field are destined for Arizona and Texas, where deportees can be placed on international flights or bused across the border to Mexico. Of the total number deported, at least 2,615 were deported from King County without a chance to see an immigration judge through expedited removal or similar processes.

The majority of the planes ICE uses are from Swift Air, a subcontractor of Classic Air Charter, which has a contract with the Department of Homeland Security. They have a fleet of Boeing 737s, which in addition to facilitating nationwide deportations, also provides transportation for musicians, sports teams and business executives, the report said.

Parrott said the airport will install cameras to better monitor ICE activities as well as potentially limiting services that it provides, such as use of its facilities or staff. However, many of these conditions are already negotiated under leases that won’t expire for decades. This means that if ICE is under one of these contracts, and doesn’t renegotiate its terms, the existing contracts could be in place well into the future. County representatives said on April 23 that they expect legal challenges from the federal government over their new policy.

The UW paper argued that under federal aviation guidelines, airports are not obligated to provide service for operators who “introduce equipment, personnel, or practices on the airport that would be unsafe, unsightly, or detrimental to the public welfare.”

Additionally, the paper argues the county could cite an executive order barring programs that adversely impact minority and low-income populations.

“If the county is interested in upholding its federal obligations, it should investigate and stop deportations happening at its airfield, given their ‘disproportionately high and adverse’ impact on people of color,” the paper said.

More in News

Nite Wave plays at the Showbox Dec. 20 Paul Twibell Photography
Nite Wave debuts at Bellevue Meydenbauer Center Theatre Feb. 28.

Now in their ninth year, Nite Wave will debut at a new Eastside venue and play with ’80s icon Tiffany.

Sarah Abdullah is a pharmacist who left Iraq as a refugee. She joined the Welcome Back Center at Highline College and is now only two tests away from gaining Washington state certification to practice her trade. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Recredentialed: Barriers face Washington’s immigrant, refugee professionals

Even with degrees from abroad, it can be difficult for many to get certified in the state.

If passed, Senate Bill 6254 would limit the nicotine concentration of vape products, ban certain flavoring chemicals and require vape manufacturers, distributors and retailers to obtain licenses from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. File photo
Lawmakers propose sweeping regulations for vaping industry

Bill supporters cite concerns over health issues and teen use.

A proposal by Senate Democrats would require concealed pistol license applicants in Washington state to complete a safety course. File photo
Democrats seek firearm training requirement for concealed carriers

Republican senator calls proposal ‘unconstitutional.’

Snohomish County man is first U.S. case of new coronavirus

A man in his 30s was hospitalized in Everett after contracting the virus during a trip to China.

Blake Peterson/staff photo
                                From left, Debra Entenman, Tana Senn, Lisa Callan, Brandi Kruse, Manka Dhingra, Patty Kurderer, Roger Goodman and My-Linh Thai at the event.
I-976, affordable housing, other issues discussed at legislative breakfast event

The gathering included a keynote speech from attorney general Bob Ferguson.

Blake Peterson/staff photo
                                City manager Jennifer Phillips was one of the speakers at the Jan. 16 information session.
What’s next for the former Wayne Golf Course in Bothell?

The city of Bothell recently acquired the property from its previous owners.

Matt Marshall, leader of the Washington Three Percenters gun rights group, addresses a crowd rallying for Second Amendment rights Jan. 17 at the state Capitol in Olympia. Marshall condemned Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, which expelled Rep. Matt Shea from the Republican Caucus. Marshall announced his candidacy for the 2nd District seat held by House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox. Photo by Cameron Sheppard, WNPA News Service
Gun rights advocates rally at Capitol

Criticism levied at Matt Shea investigation, Republican leadership.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (center) announced a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in a press conference Jan. 2. Debbie Warfield of Everett (left) lost her son to a heroin overdose in 2012. Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki (right) lost her son to an overdose of OxyContin in 2017. They are joined by Rep. Lauren Davis of Shoreline (second from right), founder of the Washington Recovery Alliance. (TVW screenshot)
AG Bob Ferguson talks lawsuits, gun control

Washington state Attorney General stopped by Sound Publishing’s Kirkland office.

Most Read