(DHS photo)

DHS Blocks New Yorkers from Trusted Traveler Programs in Response to Driver’s License Law

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Wednesday that New Yorkers are no longer eligible for trusted traveler programs because of the state’s new law that allows driver’s license access to all regardless of immigration status.

New York’s “Green Light” law allows driver’s license applicants to use foreign documents to prove their date of birth. Proponents argue that ensuring all drivers are licensed will make roads safer as applicants must pass the standard driver test; state DMVs were packed with new applicants when the law went into effect in mid-December.

The law also includes a provision blocking DMV officials from giving federal immigration officers access to driver databases without “a lawful court order or judicial warrant,” according to the text of the law. If a driver’s license holder becomes the subject of a federal immigration inquiry under the law, he or she must be notified by the DMV within three days.

“The information we receive from New York state is vital to our missions, and blocking federal law enforcement officers from accessing it creates a significant threat to both officer and public safety,” Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said in December.

In a Wednesday letter to New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Acting Commissioner Mark Schroeder and Executive Deputy Commissioner Theresa Egan, the Department of Homeland Security says the law “prevents DHS from accessing relevant information that only New York DMV maintains, including some aspects of an individual’s criminal history” and “delays a used vehicle owner’s ability to obtain CBP authorization for exporting their vehicle.”

The letter declares that, effective immediately, New York residents “will no longer be eligible to enroll or re-enroll in CBP’s Trusted Traveler Programs” including Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST.

Vehicle exports aren’t blocked but “will be significantly delayed and could also be costlier.”

On Fox News Wednesday evening, Wolf called the “Green Light” law “certainly disappointing.”

“An aspect of that… provides driver’s license to illegal aliens. But another aspect of that, which I’m more concerned about, that law, what that does is it prohibits access to both ICE and CBP, that’s Customs and Border Protection, access to DMV data,” Wolf said. “And that’s important for a number of different reasons. ICE uses that as they build cases and they’re investigating criminal networks. They’re using that personal data that they get from the database to look up an individual’s date of birth, their photo. And they are using that as they build that case. They can no longer do that because of what New York did.”

“CBP also used that for national security purposes, also for customs reasons, but also for trade and travel, they use this data,” he added. “So, when we talk about CBP’s trusted traveler programs like global entry, anyone who travels they use that, DMV data, to make sure that those individuals are low risk and meet the eligibility requirements.”

Wolf announced that all New York residents are blocked from trusted traveler programs “because we no longer have access to make sure that they meet those program requirements.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet issued a statement on the move. But according to the Associated Press, senior advisor Rich Azzopardi said the state was ready to challenge DHS. “This is obviously political retaliation by the federal government and we’re going to review our legal options,” Azzopardi said.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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