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 shut out.

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 eligibility requirements.

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 undocumented immigrants.

“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 state.” 

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.”

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