© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NY To Sue Over DHS Decision To Pull Access To Expedited Travel Services

File photo: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Pat Bradley
File photo: Ex-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that New York is suing the federal government over its decision to ban state residents from travel service programs to expedite international travel, including Global Entry and NEXUS cards.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday evening it was no longer allowing New Yorkers to apply for expedited travel services to make it through customs faster at major airports and across the Canadian and Mexican borders. Those who already enrolled in the programs will be suspended by the end of the year.

DHS blames a recent New York law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Under that statute, known as the Green Light Law, U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement are prevented from accessing New York’s DMV data base.

But Governor Cuomo says federal officials don’t need the DMV data because applicants are required to bring all necessary documents to an in-person meeting with customs officials.

“You don’t have to be a licensed driver to qualify for the federal trusted traveler program,” Cuomo said. “It is pure politics.”

Cuomo says President Trump is treating New York as a “political punching bag” in order to cater to red states. The Democratic governor says it’s also about ICE wanting the DMV data so that immigration officials can go after undocumented immigrants and deport them. Cuomo says he will never allow that data to be turned over to ICE.

“Don’t try to extort me,” Cuomo said. “It won’t work. It didn’t even work with Ukraine. Learn the lesson.”

The governor says ICE can still get any criminal records it might need from the FBI.

The state’s Attorney General, Democrat Tish James, says she will argue in court that the DHS “violated New York's sovereign immunity,” by not providing New Yorkers with equal protection and is acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner that denies state residents their constitutional rights and privileges.

Republicans in state government say it’s the fault of Cuomo and the Democratic-led state legislature for passing the Green Light Law to begin with.  

The chair of the state’s Republican Party, Nick Langworthy, says the Democrats are “on the side of law-breakers over citizen taxpayers.” Langworthy spokeabout the issue earlier in the week. 

“Anybody who is upset about this needs to call the governor,” Langworthy said. “And say, ‘Why did you do this?”

The lawsuit has not yet been filed, but a spokeswoman for the Attorney General, Kelly Donnelly, says it will be soon.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.