New York state files lawsuit over ban on Global Access program

1010 WINS Newsroom
February 10, 2020 - 4:15 pm

FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2019 file photo, The Statue of Liberty is shown in New York. The Department of Homeland Security says New York residents will be cut off from ‘trusted traveler’ programs because of a state law that prevents immigration officials from accessing motor vehicle records. Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli says tens of thousands of New Yorkers will be inconvenienced by the action. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

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NEW YORK (AP) -- New York state officials filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the Department of Homeland Security's move to block New York residents from participating in Global Entry and other programs that allow travelers to avoid long lines at airports and borders.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan charges that the federal government's decision announced last week to cut New Yorkers off from so-called “trusted traveler” programs is “a punitive measure intended to coerce New York into changing its policies.”

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli singled out New York's “Green Light” law, which allows people to get a driver’s license even if they don’t have legal residency in the United States, in announcing that residents of the state would not be allowed to enroll or re-enroll in the travel programs.

Cuccinelli told reporters on a conference call that the law, which went into effect in December, endangers the public and federal agents, who can’t quickly confirm someone’s identification, check for fugitive warrants or see if a person has a criminal record.

But New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said that information is available from other sources. “We will not allow the president of the United States to single out New York, to discriminate against New York, to target New York, and to coerce us, to coerce our state into changing its policies to comply with his preferred federal policies," James said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “Make no mistake, this is an attack, a full attack, a frontal attack on New York’s rights as a sovereign state."

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that more than a dozen states have passed laws allowing people who are not legal U.S. residents to get driver's licenses. He said in a statement that President Donald Trump “and his enablers are once again taking their aim at New York's economy in a way that not only inconveniences travelers, but also creates very real security issues.”

The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Local officials in western New York, where traffic over the U.S.-Canadian border will be slowed by the loss of trusted traveler status, urged federal officials to reverse the ban.

“Don't penalize New York businesses and don't cripple communities that are trying to make sure that they can grow and continue to grow in their local economy,” Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino said.

Howard Johnson, an Erie County legislator, said, “This decision to prevent New York residents from participating in the trusted travelers program is an over-the-top, politically motivated antic by the Department of Homeland Security to punish the great diverse people of New York."