New York, stung by the Trump administration’s sanctuary state spanking this week, announced Friday it will sue to try to prevent Homeland Security from banning its residents from signing up for trusted traveler programs.
Attorney General Letitia James said the state is being singled out for political punishment and she said the state will ask the courts to stop the “unfair targeting.”
At issue is the state’s new sanctuary law that grants driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, and bans two key federal immigration agencies from accessing the state’s motor vehicle bureau records.
Homeland Security officials this week said without access to those records, they can’t perform checks of DUI or other serious traffic offenses, which are requirements for being admitted into Global Entry or other trusted traveler programs that help speed people through airports and border crossings.
“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,” Ms. James said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Homeland Security’s move “extortion.”
They said 13 other states have laws that allow illegal immigrants to hold driver’s licenses.
But Homeland Security officials say that’s not the reason New York is losing access to the trusted traveler program. It’s the other part of the law that bars Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from access to driving and vehicle records.
Those records are the only way the government can check on DUIs, said Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner at CBP.
He said having a DUI or a major offense disqualifies someone from being a trusted traveler. No databases means no checks, ergo no approvals.
“We cannot let people into the program that have not been properly vetted,” he said.
While some other states are eyeing a similar ban on information-sharing, only New York has one in place, which is why it’s the one that’s been targeted, Homeland Security officials said Thursday as they defended the move.
Underscoring the point, they noted that New York’s new ban applies specifically to sharing information with CBP and ICE.
It does not apply to the Transportation Security Administration, which still has access to the records. And since TSA runs the popular airport Pre-Check program, New Yorkers are still able to enroll in that program.
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