The leadership of the House Committee on Homeland Security is calling for the Trump administration to reverse its ban on Global Entry enrollment by New York residents.

In a letter to acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Chad Wolf, committee leaders wrote that the policy appears to be an improper effort to punish New Yorkers because of a dispute between the state of New York and the Trump administration over immigration policy. 

“Your justification for this policy shift appears to be no more than pretext,” says the letter, which was signed by committee chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), House subcommittee on border protection chairwoman Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) and three other New York House Democrats. “You have claimed that DHS is revoking New York residents’ eligibility for programs because the department can no longer access certain state Department of Motor Vehicle records. Yet a driver’s license is not even required to participate in these programs. Indeed, citizens of a dozen foreign countries -- who presumably don’t possess driver’s licenses -- can continue to enroll.”

In addition to Global Entry, the new enrollment and re-enrollment ban applies to trusted-traveler programs Nexus, Sentri and Fast. Global Entry provides expedited re-entry access to U.S. travelers returning from abroad via air and sea. Nexus provides expedited crossings between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, and Sentri provides expedited crossings specifically between the U.S. and Mexico. Fast is an expedited entry and exit program for commercial truck drivers.

The DHS issued the directive last Wednesday in response to the Green Light Law implemented by New York in December, which allows individuals without legal immigration status to apply for a driver’s license. As part of that law, New York blocked U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from accessing Department of Motor Vehicles data.

The move was necessary, said Wolf, because without access to New York records systems, DHS personnel aren’t able to conduct proper risk assessments on trusted-traveler applicants, which include accessing applicants’ criminal histories.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has dismissed that assertion, labeling the new policy an attempt at political extortion. New York plans to fight the directive in court. 

In their letter, the five House democrats argued that blocking New York residents from Global Entry and other trusted-traveler programs would actually harm U.S. security. The reason, they said, is that when individuals enroll in trusted-traveler programs the DHS gains extensive access to their information. 

“Knowing more -- rather than less -- about a traveler would seem to enhance U.S. security,” they wrote. 

The committee members requested that by Feb. 20, the DHS turn over documents justifying the enrollment ban and showing the impact it will have on security and the economy. They also asked for all DHS and White House communications about the decision. 

Along with American citizens, citizens and nationals of Canada, Argentina, India, Colombia, the U.K., Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Mexico and Taiwan are eligible to enroll in either Global Entry or Nexus.

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