The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday it was suspending New Yorkers’ ability to enroll in Global Entry and other programs that allow travelers to pass quickly through airport security and customs in a move following a state law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News on Wednesday night that New Yorkers were no longer eligible to enroll or re-enroll in Global Entry and other such Trusted Traveler Programs that allow U.S. citizens to have faster entry into the country.
“Today, we sent a letter to New York indicating because they took these measures that New York residents are no longer eligible to enroll in these Trusted Traveler Programs,” Wolf said. “They can’t enroll or re-enroll in these Trusted Travel Programs that Customs and Border Protection offers because we no longer have access to make sure that they meet those program requirements.”
The Trump administration's decision comes after the president once again took aim at "sanctuary cities," which limit cooperation with immigration enforcement authorities, in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
New York passed its so-called Green Light law last year which allows New Yorkers over the age of 16 to apply for non-commercial driver’s licenses or learner’s permits regardless of their citizenship or legal status in the U.S. That law also prevents Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CBP from accessing information in the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles database without a court order or a judicial warrant.
Ken Cuccinelli, DHS' senior official performing the duties of acting deputy secretary, said in a news teleconference Thursday morning that the decision affects participation in the Global Entry, FAST and NEXUS programs. TSA PreCheck was not currently affected, he said, but that does not mean it couldn't be in the future.
Cuccinelli said by the end of 2020, about 175,000 New Yorkers will be removed from the programs because they are not eligible for renewal, while another 50,000 who were conditionally approved but had not completed their interviews and 30,000 who were awaiting vetting will not be accepted into the programs.
Cuccinelli said other states looking to pass laws similar to that of New York's could face the same restrictions.
"They should know that their citizens are going to lose the convenience of entering these Trusted Traveler Programs, just as New York's did," he said.
The New York law was passed in June and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.
Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi told NBC News in a statement the Trump administration’s decision was "obviously political retaliation by the federal government and we're going to review our legal options."
Cuomo told WAMC Northeast Public Radio Thursday that the move was "unbounded arrogance, disrespect of the rule of law, hyper-political government" and "another form of extortion."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a statement that there was "no factual basis" for the administration's decision.
"Once again, the Trump administration is misusing the federal government for political retribution," she said. "There is no factual basis for this policy — its true design is to punish New York for embracing diversity and inclusion."
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the New York law in December. New York Attorney General Letitia James has vowed to continue defending the law as it faced court challenges.
“The Green Light law is legal and enforceable, and two separate federal courts have now already dismissed the meritless claims of two county clerks,” she said in a statement in December.
James said the law “will help make our roads safer, our economy stronger, and will allow immigrants to come out of the shadows to sign up as legal drivers in our state.”