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North Country Business Leaders Raise Concerns Over Suspension Of Trusted Traveler Programs

NEXUS lane on the far left as travelers return to the U.S. at the Champlain-Lacolle border crossing
Pat Bradley/WAMC
NEXUS lane on the far left as travelers return to the U.S. at the Champlain-Lacolle border crossing

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump on Thursday to hash out a dispute over the suspension of the state by the Department of Homeland Security from any Trusted Traveler Program. In Northern New York, the head of the regional chamber says a resolution is critical because there are severe implications for business and travelers who regularly cross the nearby border.
The Department of Homeland Security will end New York’s access to the TTP or Trusted Traveler Program, saying the state will not allow the federal agency access to its Department of Motor Vehicle database.  North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas says one of the two programs affected and of particular concern is NEXUS for individuals crossing the border.  “Which for folks who are vetted, don't have any criminal background or customs violations at all. There's zero tolerance. They are a U.S. or Canadian citizen. They're vetted and checked by both governments simultaneously as being low-risk trusted travelers. They get a NEXUS card that lets them go through the NEXUS lane in both directions and you get through very quickly so it's very convenient.”

Douglas says the second trusted traveler program is extensively used by business.  “FAST (Free and Secure Trade) is kind of an equivalent of NEXUS for truck drivers. The driver has to go through a similar regimen: a check by both countries to get FAST status. Most shippers including a lot of our companies in the North Country who have supply chains cross border and need just-in-time reliable deliveries will only hire drivers and employ drivers who are FAST-qualified. One of the things we're concerned about: we're going to have truck drivers are going to start falling out of their FAST status if they can't apply for renewal. It's going to start interfering with the timeliness of shipments and deliveries across the border. And here's what's even worse you're going to have truck drivers lose their jobs.”
Speaking on WAMC Wednesday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed his planned meeting Thursday with President Trump. “If they kick us out of the TTP program that will have a dramatic effect on this state, on the border crossings, et cetera.”

Cuomo added: “To get TTP certification you have to be a citizen and you have to sit with a federal official on your own volition. If you apply for the TTP you're subjecting yourself to much greater scrutiny than what we have in our Department of Motor Vehicle file.”

Douglas, who has used NEXUS, adds that revoking access to any of the Trusted Traveler programs compromises cross border security.  “This enhances security substantially. These programs are designed to enhance security. The more you can take people who are low risk trusted travelers and not have to spend time asking questions and looking into them when they cross the border so you can focus more time on people arriving at the border you know nothing about that is security.”

On Monday BuzzFeed published an article detailing a memoobtained from the Department of Homeland Security outlining steps that could be taken against  “uncooperative states” to obtain DMV records including ending “pre-check functions” such as the Trusted Traveler programs.


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