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King County pamphlet seeks to allay fear that ICE agents board transit buses

Parker Miles Blohm
King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight is distributing flyers in three languages.

Immigrant rights activists say fare enforcement officers on public transit can cause fear if people worry they're working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A flier is being distributed in King County in English, Spanish and Chinese that aims to lessen those fears.

Monserrat Padilla, director of Washington State Immigrant Solidarity Network, says last year on a Rapid Transit line that runs down Aurora Avenue in Seattle, a rumor began circulating that ICE agents were on board. The rumor wasn't true, but Padilla says something like that can still wreak havoc because it can make people afraid to go out to do things, such as shop for groceries.

"Communities go hungry because of the fear that ICE might be accessing or attempting to enter their neighborhoods," Padilla said.

Padilla says it turns out someone may have mistaken a fare enforcement officer for an ICE agent. Pamphlets in English, Spanish and Chinese — produced by the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight — seek to educate people about the various uniformed personnel you might see on a bus and what their function is.

Deborah Jacobs, director of the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, says the flier also is meant to allay "the fear of ICE being on transit."

Jacobs says, and in a statement ICE confirms, that Department of Homeland Security officers with an anti-terrorism unit, known as the VIPR team, sometimes board buses or trains and are mistaken for ICE agents.


Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.