This spring, The Atlantic magazine ran a provocative cover story titled “If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will.”
As much as any other place in the nation, we are now putting that extreme thesis to the test — without much, if any, public debate.
The gist of the article, written by David Frum, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, is that President Trump is a racist demagogue on immigration. But that in reaction to him, Democrats and liberals are being radicalized into taking extreme, untenable stances.
“The effect of the Trump presidency has been, upon many liberal-minded people, to drive them to a point where any enforcement of immigration laws, beyond removing convicted felons, is emotionally, psychologically unacceptable,” Frum told NPR.
I bring up that quote because here in King County, we are now officially against even the deportation of convicted felons.
The decision by King County last month to bar Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from using Boeing Field for deportation flights is effectively a statement against any and all deportation, of anyone, no matter the reason. It means, without saying so explicitly, that King County now supports open borders.
But do we? The county has taken a big leap beyond the original sanctuary-city concept, without much debate.
The premise of sanctuary laws, which I strongly support, is that local governments shouldn’t get involved in immigration enforcement because we don’t want people in the country illegally to be forced into the shadows.
We want them to call the police when they see a crime, or to enroll their kids in school without fear of being turned in. They are here and are human beings, and their immigration status is between them and the federal government.
At least that’s what I thought it meant. Now King County has turned this supportive, hands-off approach into active interference.
King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an order at the end of April that Boeing Field, which the county owns, will no longer support any “enterprises engaged in the business of deporting immigration detainees.”
For years, the feds have chartered deportation flights out of there, usually to the southern border. Known as ICE Air, each flight can carry a hundred or more detainees who have been ordered deported after being held in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
But the executive order insists the county somehow was in the dark about it.
“In 2018, King County became aware that aircraft operated by charter operators were providing services to (ICE) at the airport and were using (it) as a location for transportation of immigration detainees,” Constantine’s order says.
I guess they didn’t read the five-part series by The News Tribune of Tacoma that featured this back in 2012. “Government-chartered flights filled with deportees leave twice a week from Boeing Field for Mexico,” it said — and included photos of deportees unloading from buses to get on the planes.
Of course at that time, Barack Obama was president. The U.S. was deporting more than 400,000 immigrants a year — 56% more than the 256,000 removed last year. More than 6,600 were deported out of Boeing Field back in 2011, 88% more than last year.
Only now the county notices? And decides to lie down in front of the planes.
That’s one selective case of Trump resistance syndrome.
It’s true there are countless problems with the immigrant detention system that need fixing, and people are right to call them out. But here’s the thing — even the most liberal sanctuary policies make exceptions where criminality is involved.
For instance, local police won’t detain someone for immigration reasons, but they will if there’s a criminal warrant. King County officials made a big deal about this distinction when they passed our various sanctuary ordinances.
“Of equal importance, (this ordinance) maintains public safety by honoring criminal warrants,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett in 2014, when the council passed a sanctuary measure barring immigration-only holds in the King County Jail.
So back to the airport: Last year, of all immigrants deported nationwide, 57% had either a felony or misdemeanor criminal conviction, according to ICE. Most were for nonviolent offenses such as drunken driving or drugs. But about 10% were for violent crimes ranging from assault to homicide.
Yet it’s now King County policy to try to block the deportations of even those 10%, too, at least from our airport. Why? It makes no practical sense (the feds shifted the flights to Yakima anyway and now are threatening legal action against King County). But politically, it’s so extreme it seems bound to backfire. It’s a new definition of sanctuary which really is more like anything goes.
The answer to demagoguery on immigration isn’t to demagogue him right back.