Cuomo to sue Trump admin for banning New Yorkers from Trusted Traveler programs
“There’s supposed to be a line between politics and government."
Saying that the president was abusing the power of the federal government to extort New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that the state is going to sue the federal government for banning New Yorkers from the Trusted Traveler programs.
The programs allow members to use expedited lanes at U.S. airports and when crossing international borders, and allow for expedited trade. The programs include Global Entry, SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection), NEXUS and FAST (Free and Secure Trade).
The Federal Department of Homeland Security said on Wednesday that it was banning New Yorkers from the programs because the state’s Green Light Law allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses.
Cuomo called the ban politically motivated retaliation by Trump and his administration, and compared it to his alleged extortion of Ukraine.
“You don’t even need a DMV license to have Global Entry. It is pure politics,” he said at a press conference.
At least 13 other states — some majority Republican — and the District of Columbia have Green Light Laws, but New York is the only state that has been targeted by the Trump administration for retaliation, Cuomo said.
He held up a prop newspaper — the “New York Daily Truth” — and read the headline, “Trump Acquitted, Not Exonerated. Trump Fails to Learn Lesson of Ukraine, Repeats Political Extortion at Department of Homeland Security.”
“To advance their political argument, the Department of Homeland Security, in an abuse of power, in a hyper politicized use of government, says we’re going to disallow the Trusted Traveler programs, which are basically a pre-clearance for entry into the United States,” Cuomo said.
Homeland Security said in a letter released on Wednesday that New York’s Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act prevents driver’s license and vehicle registration information from being released to Homeland Security, preventing U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “from accessing and validating pertinent information contained in New York DMV records.”
Homeland Security said that it uses DMV records to unearth numerous types of data, including descriptions of individuals, some criminal charges and license plate information.
Cuomo said, however, that there’s no connection between driver’s licenses and the expedited travel program.
To be approved for the Trusted Traveler Program, “You have to go through a background check, you have to sit with a federal official,” he said. “You don’t need access to DMV records to do the Global Traveler clearance … You have to go in person and provide information to the federal government. They ask you for documents, they interview you and then they decide.”
Furthermore, if Homeland Security needs access to DMV records, Cuomo said, they can just ask.
“Our DMV database — we give it all to the FBI. If Homeland Security wants access to the database, just go to the FBI, who they work with all the time.”
“They want to make a political point … that they disagree with our position allowing driver’s licenses for undocumented,” Cuomo said. “We believe undocumented people in the state should be allowed to have a driver’s license — we want them licensed. From a public safety point of view we want to know that the drivers who are on our roads are licensed.”
According to Cuomo, Homeland Security representatives said in their announcement that they spoke to New York Congressmembers Lee Zeldin and Tom Reed, both Republicans, and the representatives supported the ban.
“You actually admit that you made this decision based on the wishes of two New York State Republican, conservative politicians,” Cuomo said, adding, “There’s supposed to be a line between politics and government. You’re not supposed to be using government as a political tool. That’s the point of Ukraine.”
The lawsuit will be brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The suit will argue that Homeland Security has violated New York’s sovereign immunity, not provided residents with equal protection and is acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner that denies the rights and privileges of all New Yorkers, James said in a release on Friday.
“We will not allow New Yorkers to be targeted and bullied by an authoritarian thug,” James said in the statement.
Two separate federal courts have already dismissed lawsuits against the Green Light Law.
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