NYS Sues Over DHS Decision to Pull Access to Federal Expedited Travel Services

Feb 7, 2020

Gov. Cuomo holds up a "newspaper" trying to illustrate what he sees as a pattern of behavior by President Trump.
Credit Governor Cuomo's Flickr page

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York is suing the federal government over the decision to ban state residents from travel services programs to expedite travel across borders, including Global Entry and NEXUS cards.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday evening it was no longer allowing New Yorkers to apply for expedited travel services to make it through customs faster at major airports and across the Canadian and Mexican borders. And those who already enrolled in the programs will be suspended by the end of the year.

DHS blames a recent New York law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Under that statute, known as the Green Light Law, U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well as the   Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, are prevented from access to New York’s DMV data base.

But Cuomo says federal officials don’t need the DMV data to vet applicants, they bring all of the relevant documents to a required in- person meeting with customs officials.

“You don’t have to be a licensed driver to qualify for the federal trusted traveler program,” Cuomo said. “It is pure politics.”

Cuomo says the fight is personal. He says it’s about President Trump treating New York as a “political punching bag” to cater to red states. And, he says, it’s also about Immigration and Customs Enforcement , or ICE, wanting to get the DMV data to go after undocumented immigrants and deport them . Cuomo says he will never allow that data to be turned over to ICE.

Don’t try to extort me,” Cuomo said. “It won’t work. It didn’t even work with Ukraine. Learn the lesson.”

The governor say ICE can still get any criminal records it might need from the FBI.

The state’s Attorney General, Tish James, says she will argue in court that the federal DHS “violated New York's sovereign immunity”, by not providing New Yorkers  with equal protection and is acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner that denies state residents their constitutional  rights and privileges.

Republicans in state government say it’s the fault of Cuomo and the Democratic-led state legislature for passing the Green Light Law to begin with. 

The chair of the state’s Republican Party, Nick Langworthy says the democrats are “on the side of law-breakers over citizen taxpayers”. Langworthy spoke about the issue earlier in the week.

Anybody who is upset about this needs to call the governor,” Langworthy said. “And say ‘Why did you do this?'”.

The lawsuit has not yet been filed, but a spokeswoman for the Attorney General, Kelly Donnelly, says it will be soon.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LETITIA JAMES CONFIRMS LEGAL ACTION

Below is the press release sent by the office of AG James on Friday.

“This is political retribution, plain and simple, and while the president may want to punish New York for standing up to his xenophobic policies, we will not back down,” said Attorney General James. “We plan to take legal action and sue the Trump Administration for its unfair targeting of New York State residents. This new policy will negatively impact travelers, workers, commerce, and our economy, so we will fight the president’s shortsighted crusade against his former home. We will not allow New Yorkers to be targeted or bullied by an authoritarian thug.”

Time and time again President Trump and his Washington enablers have gone out of their way to hurt New York and other blue states whenever they can as punishment for refusing to fall in line with their dangerous and divisive agenda,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “The Department of Homeland Security’s decision to ban New Yorkers from the Trusted Traveler Program is yet another example of this administration’s disrespect of the rule of law, hyper-partisan politics and use of extortion. There is no rational basis for this politically motivated ban, and we are taking legal action to stop the federal government from inconveniencing New Yorkers to score political points.”

The release continues:

Despite 13 other states and the District of Columbia already passing laws similar to the one that New York passed allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver licenses, the Trump Administration on Wednesday singled out and targeted New York State and its residents by informing the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that New York residents could no longer enroll or reenroll in a number of Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection), NEXUS, and FAST (Free and Secure Trade).

New York residents who are already active Trusted Traveler Program participants will not have Global Entry participation or participation in any of the other programs revoked. TSA Pre✓ does not seem to be affected at this time. Additionally, the DHS has stated that the exportation of used vehicles titled and registered in New York State could be delayed and could be costlier under its new policy.

The federal government’s decision to impose this new policy stems from a fight about New York’s Green Light law. Last year, Governor Cuomo signed the Green Light bill into law, which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver licenses. This law is legal and enforceable, and two separate federal courts have already dismissed meritless lawsuits against it. The Green Light law was designed to make New York roads safer, provide a boost to the state’s economy, and allow immigrants to come out of the shadows.