The state of New York will sue the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) over the department’s move to block state residents from
enrolling or re-enrolling in Global Entry and other trusted-traveler programs.
Speaking at a press conference Friday, New York Gov. Andrew
Cuomo labeled the policy a purely political move similar to the Ukraine scandal
that led to President Donald Trump’s impeachment by the House, and of which he
was acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday.
“Don’t try to extort me. And don’t try to extort New
Yorkers. It’s not going to work. It didn’t even work with Ukraine. Learn the
lesson,” Cuomo said.
The DHS directive is a 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 directive applies to trusted-traveler programs Global
Entry, 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 move will impact an estimated 175,000 New Yorkers
annually as their membership in those programs expires, senior DHS official Ken
Cuccinelli told the media Thursday. In addition, approximately 80,000 New York
residents who are in the process of applying for one of the programs will be
In a letter to New York Department of Motor Vehicle
officials, acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf wrote that having access to state
vehicle records, including aspects of a person’s criminal history, allows the
CBP to verify that applicants to trusted-traveler programs meet the low-risk
Cuomo dismissed that justification, saying that the state
gives its Department of Motor Vehicles database to the FBI. If the DHS wants
access, he said, it can just go to the FBI. Cuomo further added that
individuals don’t need a driver’s license to qualify for Global Entry.
The real reason for the Trump administration’s interest in
New York driver’s license records, he said, is to obtain information on
“They want those records. I don’t want ICE to have those
records,” said Cuomo. “Why, because ICE will use those records as a means to do
deportations. The way ICE does deportations has wreaked havoc all over this
In a tweeted response to Cuomo’s remarks, Wolf said that in
a conversation Thursday he made clear to the governor that the enrollment halt
is about the breakdown of information-sharing from the state of New York, and
not about drivers’ licenses.
“The reality is the New York law has a crippling impact on integrity of these travel programs, and without access to New York
records systems, our personnel are unable to conduct risk assessments to
screen-out criminal histories,” Wolf wrote.
Cuomo said New York will move forward with a lawsuit “forthwith.”