The battle between sanctuary jurisdictions and the Trump Administration has soared to new heights with a flap over a small regional airport in Washington state.

The King County Airport in Seattle had been used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport 34,000 illegal immigrants over the last decade. But after a politically motivated study done by the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights, which concluded in its report, “the time has come for this work to be done,” County Executive Dow Constantine issued an order pressuring companies that fuel planes, to stop servicing ICE flights or lose their contracts with the county.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform calls it all-out war against border enforcement.


“This is taking it to a new level,” said FAIR’s spokesman Ira Mehlman. “Sanctuary policies say that the local jurisdiction won’t cooperate with ICE. Here (Constantine) is taking it a step further and blacklisting companies that do business with ICE. This crosses the line probably into obstruction of Justice.”

ICE operates the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where illegal immigrants are detained while their cases wind their way through the immigration court system. When deporting through the King County Airport, handcuffed detainees were taken on a short, 40-minute bus ride before boarding a charter flight. Now, ICE is driving detainees three hours to the Yakima Airport.

Bryan Wilcox, ICE’s acting field operations director in Seattle, said, “state and local efforts thwarting ICE operations serve only to create additional security concerns and add significant delays and costs to U.S. taxpayers.”

ICE spokesperson Tanya Roman issued a press release detailing some of the illegal immigrants deported with charter flights from the King County Airport. The list includes a Mexican citizen wanted for human trafficking, a Honduran man accused of rape and murder and a Guatemalan man charged with torture and murder.

In Washington state, Juan Flores Del Toro, an illegal immigrant who overstayed his guest worker visa, shot and killed Kittitas County Deputy Ryan Thompson during a traffic stop. His brother, Aaron Thompson, who is a King County Sheriff’s deputy, said sanctuary policies make it more dangerous for law enforcement and the public.


“The local bureaucrats have decided that they can unilaterally just decide what our nation’s laws are, and what we’re going to comply with and what we are not,” said Dori Monson, a host on KIRO Radio.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Department sent County Executive Constantine what amounts to a cease and desist letter. Responding to Constantine’s executive order, DOT General Counsel Steven Bradbury wrote, “Federal law expressly prohibits the enforcement of any such directive.”

The letter states the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act “specifically bars local governments from prohibiting or restricting particular types of air transportation.” Also, the King County Airport has received $21 million in federal grants since 2012. One condition of the grant money is allowing the federal government usage of the airport.