Feds restore Trusted Traveler Program eligibility for New Yorkers following spat over immigration law

Posted at 4:19 PM, Jul 23, 2020

The federal government has restored access to Trusted Traveler Programs for New York state residents, the Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday.

New Yorkers were banned from enrolling or re-enrolling in Global Entry and several other Trusted Traveler Programs in February in response to New York's "Green Light Law." The law allowed undocumented citizens the ability to get drivers' licenses and restricted federal immigration agencies from accessing Department of Motor Vehicle data.

Trusted Traveler Programs affected included Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS and FAST, which facilitate the entry of pre-approved travelers into the U.S. using expedited lanes at airports and international borders. The ban did not affect the domestic TSA Pre-check.

The statement from DHS released Thursday said the department will lift its ban on TTPs for New York residents because Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators amended the law, allowing for the sharing of DMV records “as necessary for an individual seeking acceptance into a trusted traveler program, or to facilitate vehicle imports and/or exports,” according to DHS.

The statement said New York continues to restrict sharing DMV records and information with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and ICE "for other enforcement efforts."

DHS said it is working with the Department of Justice to take further legal action against New York over those restrictions, as well as new criminal penalties for sharing info with CBP and ICE.

“We appreciate the information sharing to CBP for the trusted travel program, which enables DHS to move forward and begin once again processing New York residents under the Trusted Travel Program," Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement. "Nonetheless, local New York law continues to maintain provisions that undermine the security of the American people and purport to criminalize information sharing between law enforcement entities."

New York swiftly announced the state would sue the federal government after the February decision to block New Yorkers from TTPs, and later that month, Cuomo met with President Donald Trump over the move.
The meeting between the two was described as productive by Wolf, but the issue drifted from the spotlight thereafter, prior to Thursday's announcement.

Cuomo said Thursday the change to the law's verbiage was made back in April.

"After the Department of Homeland Security announced the ban on the Trusted Traveler Program for New York residents in February, I immediately met with President Trump at the White House to discuss what — to the extent that there were bonafide concerns — needed to be done to address the issue while still protecting the privacy of all New Yorkers. Subsequently the matter was dealt with in the state budget passed in April," Cuomo said. "I am glad that this issue has finally been resolved for all New Yorkers."

New York Attorney General called the reinstating of TTPs a win, calling out the motive for the Trump administration's original ban as political in nature.

“The Trump Administration backing down and restoring Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler Programs to New Yorkers is a victory for travelers, workers, commerce, and our state’s economy," James said. "This policy was political retribution, plain and simple, which is why we filed our lawsuit to stop the president from targeting and punishing New Yorkers in the first place. We will continue to defend New York’s right to pass its own laws and will fight to protect our state’s residents anytime they are bullied by the president because safety and fairness are not mutually exclusive under the law.”

Kristine Garcia contributed.