The Trump administration's attempt to block New Yorkers from enrolling in trusted traveler programs is heading for court.
On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York Civil Liberties Union announced their intention to file lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security. DHS said this week that it will no longer allow New York state residents to sign up for popular programs intended to speed up international travel because of a state law that blocks immigration authorities from accessing motor vehicle records.
"You can't do that. It's an abuse of power. It is extortion," Cuomo said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit.
New York's "Green Light" law allows immigrants in the country illegally to apply for driver's licenses. More than a dozen other states do the same. But New York's law goes further: it prohibits the state's DMV from sharing information with immigration authorities, unless a judge orders them to.
Acting deputy DHS secretary Ken Cuccinelli said that prevents them from properly vetting applicants for trusted traveler programs including Global Entry and NEXUS.
"Here we have a state that was one of the targets on [Sept. 11] walking backwards to bar the sharing of law enforcement relevant information," Cuccinelli said Thursday on a call with reporters, "and crucially, criminal records, which are kept up to date in DMV databases."
But New York's governor argues that the move is political retribution for the state's decision to block information-sharing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"I don't want ICE to have those records," Cuomo said, "because ICE will use those records as a means to do deportations. The way ICE does a deportation has wreaked havoc all over this state."
DHS says roughly 175,000 New Yorkers will lose their trusted traveler status by the end of the year as their credentials expire, and they won't be allowed to renew. And another 50,000 who had been tentatively approved will now be rejected.
They can still travel, but not in the fast lane.
"I'm definitely frustrated by it," said Roberta Barnett, who lives in New York City. She doesn't have a driver's license, but was still tentatively approved for Global Entry in time for her trips to Japan and Europe later this year.
She says the DHS decision to block New Yorkers from the program over access to DMV records doesn't make sense.
"So it's additionally frustrating because it would not matter in my particular case," Barnett said.
A driver's license is not required to sign up for Global Entry.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said Friday it intends to file a class-action lawsuit of its own on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are shut out of the programs.
"Tampering with New Yorkers' access to travel is reckless but it's not surprising," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "It's exactly what we should expect from a president who will do anything to punish people who stand in the way of his cruel agenda."
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuits.