A discussion about flights to deport undocumented immigrants that are operating out of Yakima Air Terminal at McAllister Field has been added to the Yakima City Council agenda for July 16.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement first started deporting undocumented individuals from McAllister Field on May 7. The agency formerly had used Boeing Field in Seattle. The switch came after King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an executive order directing companies to stop service of charter flights operating on behalf of ICE.
The first reference to the ICE-chartered flights came during public comment, when two women from Ellensburg voiced their opposition to the continued presence of ICE in the Yakima community.
Ruthi Roth Erdman, a senior lecturer at Central Washington University, said at Tuesday’s meeting that the treatment of undocumented individuals, both during ICE transports and at holding facilities, could only be considered inhumane. She pointed to recent events in Clint, Texas, where hundreds of young children resorted to caring for each other while being detained in deplorable conditions for weeks, in a facility built to accommodate many fewer adults for much shorter periods of time.
Erdman said that she and a group of other individuals in Ellensburg had decided to boycott shopping in Yakima so long as the city continued to allow ICE-chartered flights.
Later in the meeting, Councilwoman Dulce Gutierrez asked City Administrator Cliff Moore about whether he had been in communication with King County and the decision to oppose ICE. Moore said he had spoken to the King County deputy executive about their interactions with the federal government since the decision to prohibit the ICE-chartered flights. Moore added that the city’s legal counsel had reviewed the city’s contracts and possible changes that could be made to future contracts and that the city also has a comprehensive document about the number of undocumented individuals entering and leaving on the flights.
Councilwoman Kay Funk asked to add a discussion of the ICE-chartered flights to the agenda for the council’s next regular meeting on July 16.
“I think that the humanitarian problem here is very shocking,” Funk said. “What King County did, we could probably do, and we at least owe it to our community to handle it openly.”
Funk had previously asked at a May 21 council meeting that the flights be added to the council’s agenda. Her motion died for lack of a second.
Gutierrez said a council discussion of the flights was absolutely necessary at this point — if only to show Yakima residents where each council member stands on the matter.
“It’s important to know who on the council supports the immigrant community and who doesn’t,” she said.
Councilwoman Carmen Mendez said she had gone to see how the individuals were being transported and that it was not a pretty sight. She asked Moore about whether red city vehicles on site were aiding in the operations.
Moore said the city vehicles and staff were there only to observe proceedings.
Mendez replied, “From my perspective, it looked like the trucks were obstructing the view from anyone who would want to view the transports.”
Moore said that was not the case. Mendez asked if she would be allowed to observe the transports, as a councilwoman, from one of the red trucks. Moore said that, due to security issues, she would not.
Councilman Brad Hill said he was willing to have a discussion but did not think anything would change.
“I have to make a decision based on 93,000 people, and I think operating an airport is important,” Hill said. “To make a good decision, I need to know what 93,000 people stand to gain by flouting federal immigration law.”
Mayor Kathy Coffey also said she wanted more facts prior to the discussion about what the City Council could do. Moore said he had emailed council members the documents and notes about the conversation he had with King County officials and would make that information available again.
Editorial Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Ruthi Roth Erdman's official title.