King County, Washington Tries to Ground ICE Flights
By David Jaroslav | May 23, 2019
Not content with trying to restrict federal immigration officials’ access to the Spokane bus terminal, now there is another attempt to keep Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from operating deportation flights out of a Seattle-area airport. But ICE is pushing back, and other federal agencies are backing them up.
On April 23, King County Executive Dow Constantine (D) issued an executive order telling private contractors servicing planes at King County Airport not to do so for flights chartered by ICE or they’d face losing their county contracts and leases. He made it very clear that his “goal is to ban flights of immigrant detainees from our publicly owned airport,” and hence one observer described the order as attempting to create a “sanctuary airport.”
The three flight servicing companies operating at the airport, Modern Aviation, Kenmore Aero Services and Signature Flight Support, all quickly agreed to comply with Constantine’s order and stop servicing flights chartered by ICE.
On April 26, ICE spokeswoman Tanya Roman responded to Constantine’s actions, saying, “[i]t's unfortunate to see yet another example of local policymaking aimed at intimidating ICE and our partners, particularly when such policies harm the very communities whose welfare they claim to protect, by making it more difficult to remove criminal aliens who prey upon the innocent” and adding that “[t]o suggest that the enforcement of federal immigration laws is somehow a human rights violation is irresponsible and reflects either a profound misunderstanding or willful mischaracterization of those laws and of the proper roles and responsibilities of the federal government and states and localities in ensuring that the laws are properly administered[.]”
On May 8, ICE issued a press release detailing some of the dangerous criminal aliens they’d deported on flights out of the airport, including multiple murderers and sex offenders, a human trafficker, a conspirator in a notorious 13-victim robbery-homicide massacre in Hong Kong, and even a former member of the Guatemalan military wanted for torturing and killing civilians in his home country.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is siding with ICE saying King County is interfering with federal authority. Steven Bradbury, General Counsel for DOT, recently wrote Constantine informing the county executive that “the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act “specifically bars local governments from prohibiting or restricting particular types of air transportation.””
Additionally, “the King County Airport has received $21 million in federal grants since 2012. One condition of the grant money is allowing the federal government usage of the airport.” Courts have long held that the federal government can attach conditions like that to federal funds.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D), who represents parts of King County, recently praised Constantine’s executive order.
But Ira Mehlman, FAIR’s Media Director, described it as “taking it a step further and blacklisting companies that do business with ICE,” adding that, “[t]his crosses the line probably into obstruction of Justice.”