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Trump administration sues King County over ICE flights from Boeing Field

U.S. Department of Justice seal
Simone Alicea

The Trump administration is suing King County after a 2019 directive that resulted in the stoppage of flights at Boeing Field chartered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In April, King County Executive Dow Constantine issued an executive order seeking to prohibit flights of immigrant detainees at the airport. Carriers elected not to take those flights shortly after the order was issued.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, the Department of Justice says the order violates federal aviation law and unlawfully interferes with the government's ability to enforce immigration law.

"King County's action at Boeing Field is just one salvo in what has become an ongoing battle over immigration policy in this state," said Bill Hyslop, U.S. attorney for Washington's Eastern District.

King County's ban on detainee flights means they have to be bused to Yakima. Hyslop says that costs more for taxpayers.

The lawsuit is one of three announced Monday against "sanctuary"-style policies intended to protect undocumented immigrants. Attorney General Bill Barr announced the lawsuits against King County, as well as California and New Jersey, at a national conference of sheriffs.

U.S. Attorney Bryan Moran, of Washington's Western District, says the lawsuit is about public safety, not politics.

"There is no politics in my job," Moran said. "None. Absolutely none."

Constantine said he was disappointed by the lawsuit, but not surprised.

"The president and the attorney general are choosing to file a lawsuit for the purposes of grandstanding in an election year," Constantine said.

Constantine said the county had been working with the Federal Aviation Administration to resolve any issues with the policy at Boeing Field.

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.