State Official Bans Deportation of Criminal Aliens From Airport

April 26, 2019 Updated: April 26, 2019

A Washington state official signed an executive order earlier this week banning Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials from using an international airport located in a sanctuary county to deport criminal illegal aliens. The order seeks to amend the airport’s lease practices.

King County Executive Dow Constantine, a Democrat, signed the order on April 23. It seeks to ensure future long-term leases with companies that operate hangars and other facilities at the county’s international airport do not “cooperate or facilitate immigration enforcement directives unless accompanied by a court order.”

In a statement, Constantine said that the county’s goal is to end deportation flights altogether. Over the last eight years, ICE has deported some 34400 illegal aliens via the airport. ICE moves thousands of illegal immigrants in and out of the airport every year.

“Here in King County, we are a welcoming community that respects the rights of all people,” he said. “My Executive Order seeks to make sure all those who do business with King County uphold the same values.”

“Our goal is to ban flights of immigrant detainees from our publicly owned airport, and I hope members of Congress shine a light on this practice and how it is currently funded.”

Border Patrol agents apprehend illegal immigrants who have just crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States near McAllen, Texas, on April 18, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Border Patrol agents apprehend illegal immigrants who have just crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States near McAllen, Texas, on April 18, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Constantine said that his county first starting becoming aware that ICE was transporting immigrant detainees through the airport via charter aircraft in June last year. King County airport is located in South Seattle. Some of the points in Constantine’s order include taking “appropriate actions” to minimize county cooperation with ICE officials and to work with Congress to change the law on deportation practices.

Sanctuary cities are locales that have enacted measures to prevent local officials from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

“As a sanctuary county, it is important that our airport complies with all local immigration and human rights ordinances,” King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles said in a statement.

Rachel Smith, deputy county executive and chief of staff said they believe the order is the first attempt by any jurisdiction in the country to ban flights from cooperating with ICE.

The county’s order comes amid efforts from the Trump administration and the GOP to enforce immigration laws. Tanya Roman, a spokesperson for ICE told The Epoch Times that once the removal of an illegal immigrant is given, it’s the job of ICE to “efficiently carry out the removal order.”

“ICE removes thousands of aliens each year, and does so humanely and in full compliance with domestic law and U.S. treaty obligations,” she said via email on April 26. “To 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.”

Roman continued: “ICE maintains that cooperation by local officials is an indispensable component of promoting public safety. It’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.”

Border Patrol agents apprehend illegal immigrants who have just crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States near McAllen, Texas, on April 18, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

An FAA spokesperson, meanwhile, told The Seattle Times, “We do not comment on hypotheticals.”

U.S. officials said they arrested or denied entry to more than 103,000 people along the border with Mexico in March, more than twice as many as the same period in 2018.

Weeks ago, President Donald Trump said he’s considering a plan to transport aliens who are apprehended after illegally crossing the southwest border exclusively to sanctuary cities.

“Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

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