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.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Surge in consumer spending eases state budget challenges

A jump in tax collections cuts a projected $9 billion shortfall in half, acccording to new forecast.

High speed rail and hub cities explored in Cascadia Corridor study

A new paper outlines a potential plan for the region.

Woman shot, killed by officers in Redmond

The woman had called 911 and reported that someone was trying to kill her. Police state she confronted officers with a handgun.

Should state cover school bus costs if there are no riders?

With funding tied to getting students to school, districts are uncertain how much money they’ll receive.

Pexel Images
Two patients contracted COVID-19 while at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland

A press release from the hospital states it has contacted 100 employees that had various levels of exposure, and that the direct source in this case is unclear

Virtual town halls coming up for unincorporated King County

Events throughout September and October via Zoom will cater to different areas of the region.

A view of the Palmer Fire, located seven miles southwest of Oroville in north central Washington. Source: InciWeb
Antifa isn’t starting Washington wildfires

Online conspiracy theories are spreading as the West Coast burns.

Amazon adds more office space to Bellevue, now as many new jobs as HQ2

The office space for an additional 10,000 jobs, making it 25,000 coming to downtown, is expected to complete in 2023.

Constantine announces King County climate action plan

Plots an example of decreased stormwater pollution, urban flooding prevention, immigrant connections

The YMCA of Greater Seattle opened its King County branches to provide child care centers dedicated to serving the families of essential workers. Courtesy photo
COVID continues to whittle away at child care in Washington

It’s estimated that 25% of Washington child care facilities have closed since the pandemic began.

Ferguson sues agencies over archive relocation decision

“Decision to close the National Archives in Seattle has far-reaching impacts across the Northwest.”