Trump suspends Global Entry, traveler programs for New York residents over sanctuary policies

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S., January 13, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The Trump administration will no longer allow New York state residents to enroll in Global Entry or other Trusted Traveler programs, citing new sanctuary policies that limit federal access to state driver’s license data, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said on Fox News late Wednesday.

Wolf told Fox host Tucker Carlson that he sent a letter to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles informing the agency that the state’s new limits on information sharing with U.S. Customs and Border Protection made it impossible for federal authorities to process travelers’ applications for Global Entry and other programs.

The measure appears to be one of the Trump administration’s most significant retaliatory moves against so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions, which limit local cooperation with federal immigration authorities. President Donald Trump on Tuesday night criticized sanctuary cities during his State of the Union address and vowed to encourage action against their policies, which he says endanger U.S. citizens because they allow criminal immigrants to evade deportation.

One DHS official said late Wednesday that the move would affect the approximately 150,000 New York state residents who apply to the traveler programs each year. Travelers currently enrolled in Global Entry and programs such as SENTRI and NEXUS would not lose their status, but they will not be able to renew.

In his letter, Wolf said the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act known as the “Green Light Law,” enacted by New York state in June, made it impossible for the Department of Homeland Security to properly vet applicants for the Trusted Traveler programs.

“Although DHS would prefer to continue our long-standing cooperative relationship with New York on a variety of these critical homeland security initiatives, this Act and the corresponding lack of security cooperation from the New York DMV requires DHS to take immediate action to ensure DHS’s efforts to protect the Homeland are not compromised,” Wolf wrote.

In addition to major international airports, New York state also has busy border crossings with Canada where drivers and pedestrians who cross frequently use the SENTRI program.

Homeland Security officials rely on DMV data to obtain criminal records, corroborate addresses and physical characteristics, and obtain vehicle and property data, Wolf’s letter said. And by prohibiting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from obtaining license plate data, even for suspects with violent criminal records, the sanctuary laws are placing federal officers at greater risk, he wrote.

Wolf also told the New York DMV that vehicle exports from the state also will face significant delays, because the sanctuary policies don’t allow the government to verify the ownership of used vehicles being shipped abroad.

Those checks will now have to be done in person, said the DHS official with knowledge of the plans.

In December, New York state began issuing driver’s licenses and permits to applicants regardless of their legal status. President Trump singled out New York for criticism during his State of the Union address, and his administration also has criticized the state of California and other jurisdictions that have policies limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

A DHS official with knowledge of the deliberations said the department does not plan to take immediate steps against other states and cities. But Wolf’s letter indicates that the measures for New York were part of an initial assessment of the impact of sanctuary policies on traveler programs, suggesting that additional measures could follow.

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