New York Global Entry lawsuit, Letitia James sues Trump Administration.
New York asked a federal judge to block the Trump administration’s ban on its residents applying for Global Entry and other expedited border-crossing programs, arguing it infringes on the state’s ability to set its own laws.
State Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit Monday in Manhattan federal court against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, three days after she and Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to do so.
It was the latest move in an escalating battle over New York’s Green Light Law, which allows immigrants to seek driver’s licenses regardless of their legal immigration status.
On Wednesday, DHS cited the measure when it banned New York residents from applying for four Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry and NEXUS.
DHS takes issue with a measure in the Green Light Law blocking its agents from accessing the state’s motor vehicle records, which the federal agency argues puts its law-enforcement officers at risk.
But Cuomo and state lawmakers have vowed to keep the law intact, arguing the data-blocking provision is meant to keep ICE and Border Patrol from mining DMV data to target undocumented immigrants for deportation.
“The president’s new (Trusted Traveler Program) policies will negatively impact hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, travelers and workers within a year,” James said Monday at a news conference in Manhattan.
“It will slow down commerce, it will cost our economy, all while posing a significant threat to public safety.”
The new federal policy, announced last week, applies to four federal border-crossing programs — Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST — that allow members to cross through expedited inspection lanes.
Since it was enacted, about 80,000 New York residents who began the vetting process — which includes a background check and in-person interview — had their applications denied.
Another 175,000 people who are currently enrolled in the programs will see their membership expire at some point this year, according to DHS.
James’ lawsuit argues DHS violated the Constitution and federal law when it abruptly announced its ban, failing to recognize the state’s right to sovereignty or to follow a federal law that lays out the process for agencies to change their rules and regulations.
Specifically, James’ lawsuit claims the federal government unfairly targeted New York in an effort to “cause disproportionate injury to New York and New Yorkers.”
At least a dozen other states allow undocumented immigrants to seek a driver’s license, and dozens of states and cities have sanctuary policies that limit information sharing with immigration agencies, the lawsuit notes.
But top federal prosecutors and DHS officials have argued the state’s data-blocking measure is untenable, stopping federal agents from accessing DMV databases that include information about people or vehicles agents have encountered or are on the lookout for.
New York’s measure is particularly strong: It only allows the state to release the information with a court order, judicial warrant or subpoena.
Federal agencies retain access to criminal history when someone is convicted of a crime that requires finger-printing. That data is maintained by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
However, records on certain traffic violations and low-level misdemeanors, such as driving while ability impaired or reckless driving, are only available through the DMV databases, according to Rose Brophy, director of field operations for U.S. Community and Border Protection’s Buffalo office.
Since DHS no longer has access to the DMV databases, federal agents can no longer adequately complete the required background checks for New York residents seeking Global Entry, NEXUS or the two other affected programs, Brophy said.
“Without that information, we don’t have the adequate information to do our job and to do it effectively and safely,” Brophy said at a news conference Monday in Buffalo.
Democratic lawmakers and officials weren’t convinced.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown joined three Democratic state lawmakers from his city to speak out Monday against the federal policy, arguing it would be “devastating” to the economy of Buffalo and other communities that border Canada.
Brown, himself a NEXUS card holder whose membership expires later this year, said economic activity flows across the seven entry points to the country in western New York.
“We don’t think there is a connection between the Green Light Law and the decision of the federal government to suspend the enrollment and re-enrollment in the Trusted Traveler Program,” Brown said at the state Capitol.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, said there’s a simple fix if DHS can’t access a driver’s full record.
A driver can request his or her own driving abstract from the state DMV for the cost of $7, Ryan noted. If DHS wants information on a driver’s record, it can have them submit it when they apply for NEXUS or one of the other traveler programs, he said.
Brophy said the new federal policy is “not about a driver’s license or who it’s issued to.”
“The bottom line is we had access to this before … and now we don’t have that access,” she said. “We just want to have the ability to give that information to our officers in real time.”
Will Cuomo, Trump meet?
Cuomo, meanwhile, said Monday he’s still seeking a meeting with President Donald Trump about the impact of the new federal ban.
The governor was in Washington D.C. this past weekend and said he requested a meeting.
In a tweet, Trump claimed Cuomo canceled a meeting, but Cuomo said that was in reference to a dinner with governors across the country that the New York governor hadn’t been scheduled to attend to begin with.
The two briefly spoke by phone Sunday, Cuomo said.
“I clarified that with the president and I said I want a meeting and he said he would call tomorrow, which is today, and they would set up a meeting so we’ll see what happens,” the governor said Monday on WAMC-FM.