Homeland Security suspends “Trusted Traveler” programs for New Yorkers

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NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that it would no longer let New York residents enroll in its “trusted traveler” programs because of a new state law that blocked federal immigration officials from accessing motor vehicle records. Currently, 800,000 New York residents participate.

In a three-page letter, DHS said the legislation, dubbed the “Green Light” law, prevents federal agencies from protecting residents from “menacing threats to national security and public safety.”

The sweeping move came a day after President Donald Trump slammed New York, a sanctuary city, in his State of the Union address. Sanctuary cities are localities that provide added protection to immigrants and refuse to cooperate with federal officials, and federal law enforcement which has only escalated since Trump took office.

The law, which went into effect in December, allowed people without legal permission to be in the United States to apply for driver’s licenses. It also included a provision prohibiting state DMV officials from providing any of its data to entities that enforce immigration law unless a judge orders them to do so.

“They need that information from the DMV in order for them to do their jobs. So, I wasn’t surprised,” said Mickey Kearns, Erie County Clerk, who has been opposed to enforcing the Green Light Law.

The law blocks U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which patrols the U.S.-Canada border in New York and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from obtaining the vehicle’s owners information.

“I’m very frustrated by nothing short of extortion by the Trump administration,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. She is the former Erie County Clerk and says Homeland Security should be well aware how to tell the difference in the New York’s standard driver’s licenses. “Absolutely, the Driver’s License says ‘Not for Federal purposes’, not for getting on an airplane, not going into a secure facility, not crossing into Canada. So that’s already been addressed. It simply says ‘This person lives here.”

Buffalo Niagara Partnership president, Dottie Gallagher fears it will hurt commerce. “So, it just feels like a lot of tit-for-tat and a lot of Washington and New York State sort of duking it out and we are gonna pay the price for that, not only crossing the bridge but even global entry, so it’s just ridiculous.”

“I have been a NEXUS holder for more than 20 years,” said Angelo Morinello, (R) New York State Assembly member for Niagara Falls. “The backup on these bridges is going to impact lawful citizens. What I see is when legislation is put in trying to focus on one group, there’s always going to be unintended consequences.”

Chad Wolf, acting head of the Homeland Security Department, called New York’s new law “disappointing” during a Fox News interview late Wednesday night. He said the suspension of the programs, used by travelers to quickly move through customs and security at airports, was effective immediately.

“They (New York residents) can’t enroll or reenroll in these trusted traveler programs that customs and border protections offers because we no longer have access to make sure that they meet those program requirements,” he said.

A senior adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, said the move by DHS was politically motivated.

“This is obviously political retaliation by the federal government and we’re going to review our legal options,” Azzopardi said.

Cuomo, a Democrat, approved the Green Light law last summer, allowing individuals to use foreign-issued documents to prove their age and identity so they can apply for driving privileges. Lawmakers and Cuomo became worried that ICE and CBP would be able to easily obtain information about people seeking a license, and possibly making it easier for them to be deported.

“This is yet another result of one-party extremist in Albany control hurting New Yorkers, and we warned of this impending outcome two weeks ago. As someone who lived through 9/11, I am astonished how Governor Cuomo could disregard the words of the 9/11 Commission where they noted ‘For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons,'” Rep. Tom Reed said. “The Department of Homeland Security provides many services to New York not provided to other states. Albany must repeal the Green Light Law before the federal government is forced to take further action.”

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