YAKIMA — Yakima has become a regular stop for ICE flights for now, City Manager Cliff Moore said Friday.
Moore said Bryan Wilcox, acting field operations director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, recently confirmed that the Yakima airport will continue to be used as a landing site to drop off and pick up detained undocumented immigrants.
Just how often those flights will land here is unclear as the ICE director wouldn’t divulge much information, Moore said.
“He wouldn’t commit to disclosing the frequency or any schedule,” Moore said.
On Tuesday, a private plane under contract with ICE landed in Yakima, dropped off 42 undocumented immigrants and picked up 92 detainees.
Those dropped off were bused to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, and those picked up had come from Tacoma.
Yakima became a landing pad for ICE flights after King County’s decision to stop service to such flights at Boeing Field in Seattle.
ICE said it will depend on Yakima while it works to normalize relations with King County, Moore said.
King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an order in April directing officials at Boeing Field to negotiate new leases with fixed-base operators that would halt them from servicing ICE flights. The county could not forbid ICE flights from using Boeing Field on its own because of federal airport requirements.
Having such flights land in Yakima will have a “chilling effect” on the migrant community here that could impact airport business, said Alfredo Gonzalez Benitez, attorney with Columbia Legal Services.
“We have a large migrant population using the airport,” he said. “Our community is afraid of using the airport and the airport is going to lose business from our large migrant population.”
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