ALBANY, N.Y. – The state will sue the Trump administration over its ban on residents applying for Global Entry and other expedited border crossing programs, officials announced Friday.
The announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James came a day after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security implemented its policy for four of its Trusted Traveler Programs, which allow low-risk, vetted travelers to use expedited lanes when crossing border lines or reentering the USA.
The federal policy, which does not allow New York residents to enroll or reenroll, came in response to the state’s Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses and blocks DMV data from federal immigration authorities.
At a news conference in Manhattan, Cuomo lambasted the DHS decision, calling it “extortion” and accusing the agency of carrying out President Donald Trump’s political agenda.
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He argued the decision unfairly targets New York residents.
“We’re going to sue the federal government,” said Cuomo, a Democrat. “We’re going to disclose this political intrusion into government, this ham-handed political tactic that once again hurts New Yorkers to make their political point.”
Decision applies to four pre-clearance programs
The federal policy applies to four border crossing programs: Global Entry, for those entering the USA from international destinations; NEXUS, for those entering from Canada; SENTRI, for entries from Canada and Mexico; and FAST, for commercial truckers.
It does not apply to TSA PreCheck at airports.
Those who have membership in the affected programs will be able to participate until their membership expires.
The decision could affect about 175,000 New York residents whose memberships expire in 2020, according to DHS Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli.
An additional 80,000 people who were in the midst of the months-long vetting process will have their applications denied, he said Thursday.
Trump has made immigration a major plank of his platform, criticizing states and cities with “sanctuary” policies meant to shield undocumented immigrants from federal authorities.
Green Light Law expands driver’s license eligibility
New York’s Green Light Law, which took effect in December, allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license by using foreign-issued documents to prove their identity and age.
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The law includes a measure that prevents the state Department of Motor Vehicles from turning over any data to federal immigration authorities such as ICE and Customs and Border Protection, which was meant to keep the agencies from mining the data to more easily track down those without legal immigration status.
When the law took effect, the DMV blocked ICE and the Border Patrol from accessing its databases, which contain photos, vehicle registration information and some criminal history that federal immigration agencies had access to for years, according to the DHS.
Because the DHS no longer has access, it can’t adequately perform a background check for New York residents applying for the Trusted Traveler Programs, the agency said.
“This law that New York has introduced has made our law enforcement officers less safe on an individual basis,” Cuccinelli said Thursday. “It has also made New York less safe.”
Leaders protest NY unfairly targeted
Neither James nor Cuomo shed much light on their legal strategy, though both spoke of how the law targets New York residents. The 14th Amendment requires equal protection under the law.
In a statement, James said the federal policy will “negatively impact travelers, workers, commerce and our economy.”
“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 James, a Democrat. “We plan to take legal action and sue the Trump administration for its unfair targeting of New York state residents.”
New York GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, a Trump supporter, said the blame rests on Cuomo and Democrats who supported the Green Light Law.
“This is an issue of safety and security, which Democrats have zero regard for anymore,” Langworthy said in a statement. “Once again, Cuomo is on the side of law-breakers over citizen taxpayers.”
Follow Jon Campbell on Twitter: @JonCampbellGAN.