The Trump administration backed off a ban Thursday blocking New Yorkers from a federal program allowing travelers expedited entry into the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security officials barred New Yorkers from participating in “trusted traveler programs” back in February over a state law granting undocumented immigrants access to drivers licenses and preventing federal immigration authorities from obtaining state DMV records.
At the time, DHS said roughly 175,000 New York residents could lose their trusted traveler status by the end of the year as their credentials expired.
The feds said the change was made Thursday because New York amended the so-called “Green Light Law” to allow immigration authorities access to information on applicants for the programs, which give pre-approved travelers expedited clearance when arriving at airports or border crossings.
Lawmakers amended the license law, which went into effect in December, in the state budget back in April — also making it a felony for any law enforcement officer to share DMV records with any agency in charge of immigration, such as Customs and Border Protection.
“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.”
When DHS first blocked access to the programs, Gov. Cuomo compared the move to “extortion” and offered several compromises that were rejected by President Trump.
The beef led the state to file a lawsuit against DHS, arguing that the policy was arbitrarily imposed and violated New York’s rights as a sovereign state.
Cuomo said he’s happy the matter has been resolved.
“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,” he said in a statement. “Subsequently the matter was dealt with in the state budget passed in April. I am glad that this issue has finally been resolved for all New Yorkers.”
The ban also blocked New Yorkers from submitting applications or renewing memberships for programs allowing expedited passage across borders with Mexico and Canada.
Wolf said the feds are still unhappy with the fact that the Green Light Law maintains restrictions on sharing driver’s license records.
“DHS is currently working with the Department of Justice to determine appropriate legal actions to address these problems,” he said.