Boeing Field in Seattle. COURTESY PHOTO, King County

Boeing Field in Seattle. COURTESY PHOTO, King County

U.S. Department of Justice sues King County for banning ICE flights | Update

Constantine responds to claims of unlawful, unconstitutional restrictions on use of Boeing Field

  • Monday, February 10, 2020 4:30pm
  • News

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit Monday in federal court in Seattle against King County asking the court to invalidate and enjoin a county policy aimed at banning all immigration related flights at Boeing Field.

In April 2019, King County announced the executive order designed to ban all deportation flights from the airfield. Because U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can no longer use Boeing Field, it has had to transport detainees to and from the Yakima airport via bus – a trip of 150 miles.

“King County doesn’t get to pick and choose which federal laws it wants to follow,” said Brian T. Moran, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, in a U.S. Department of Justice news release. “The federal government transferred Boeing Field to the county in 1948 – and the agreement states that the federal government retains the right to use the field at no cost. King County is violating the law, the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, and the very agreement it signed to gain ownership of the airport.”

“The vast majority of people being deported from our state have previously committed crimes in this country that lead to their deportation,” said William D. Hyslop, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. “We don’t refuse to send a criminal defendant to another state to face charges – neither should we fail to return illegal aliens to their country of origin if they have committed crimes that make them inadmissible to the United States and a danger to our communities.”

In order to continue the lawful transport of detainees both to and from the Northwest ICE Processing Center, ICE must subject them to a 150-mile bus trip to Yakima, increasing the cost and lengthening the trip for the detainees, according to the news release.

The litigation charges the restrictions placed on Boeing Field and the contractors that service aircraft there with violating the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), as well as the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, by obstructing and burdening federal activities.

The litigation in Western Washington was announced by Attorney General William Barr in a speech to the nation’s sheriffs. In addition to the Boeing Field litigation, the Department of Justice filed suit in New Jersey seeking to invalidate laws preventing the sharing of information between state and local law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security.

Constantine responds to suit

King County Executive Dow Constantine released the following statement Monday afternoon:

“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.”


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