Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News, N.Y.
WASHINGTON – New York residents will no longer be able to register for or renew their memberships in trusted traveler programs such as NEXUS and Global Entry – under a new Trump administration policy issued in response to New York’s Green Light law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced the dramatic policy change in an appearance on Fox News late Wednesday.
“Today we sent a letter to New York, indicating because they took these measures, that New York residents no longer eligible to enroll in these trusted traveler programs,” Wolf told Tucker Carlson of Fox News.
The Trump administration’s move does not immediately affect New York residents who already use NEXUS – hugely popular for Western New Yorkers who travel to Canada regularly – and Global Entry, which makes it far quicker for international travelers to re-enter the U.S. after trips abroad.
But it does mean that they will not be able to renew their membership in those trusted traveler programs once their current memberships expire.
It also means that New Yorkers who plan on enrolling in those programs for the first time will not be able to do so.
The new DHS policy blocks renewals and new enrollments from New York in the SENTRI program for people who wish to quickly enter either Canada and Mexico, as well as FAST, a trusted-traveler program for truck drivers. The letter outlining the new federal policy makes no mention of TSA Pre-Check – a popular program that offers members a short-cut in airport security lines for domestic travel.
Wolf said his agency was suspending trusted traveler enrollment for New Yorkers not just because the Green Light law allows undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, but also because that state measure bars federal law enforcement agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement from accessing Department of Motor Vehicles data.
“That’s important for a number of different reasons,” Wolf said. “ICE uses that as they build cases. And they’re investigating criminal networks, they’re using that personal data that they get from that database to look up an individual’s date of birth, their photo, and they’re using that as they build that case. They can no longer do that because of what New York did.”
Customs and Border Protection also uses that state drivers’ license data for national security purposes, but can no longer do so in New York because of the State Legislature’s action, Wolf said.
The legislature passed the Green Light law in June with the backing of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Advocates of the law billed it as a public safety measure, in that it would allow undocumented immigrants to be registered with the state.
But Wolf, in a letter to New York’s DMV, said the Green Light law could have a dire impact on national security.
“The act compromises CBP’s ability to confirm whether an individual applying for (trusted traveler program) membership meets program eligibility requirements,” Wolf wrote.
He noted that ICE has used state motor vehicle data to combat crimes ranging from narcotics smuggling, human trafficking, fraud and identity theft.
Last year in New York, ICE arrested 149 child predators, identified or rescued 105 human trafficking victims, arrested 230 gang members and seized 6,487 pounds of illegal narcotics.
“In the vast majority of these cases, ICE relied on New York DMV records to fulfill its mission,” Wolf wrote.
That being the case, Wolf wrote that the Trump administration had no choice but to block New Yorkers from accessing federal trusted traveler programs, once the state passed the Green Light law.
“Although DHS would prefer to continue our long-standing cooperative relationship with New York on a variety of these critical homeland security initiatives, this act and the corresponding lack of security cooperation from the New York DMV requires DHS to take immediate action to ensure DHS’s efforts to protect the homeland are not compromised,” Wolf wrote.
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