DHS lifts ban on Trusted Traveler program for New York residents after 'false statements'

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that it lifted the ban on the Trusted Traveler program for New York residents.

The move was in part due to "inaccurate and misleading claims" officials from the department made to justify the program, according to a court filing.

The February ban was in response to a New York immigration law that prevented the sharing of information to federal law enforcement officers.

The government said Thursday in a court filing that DHS made false statements to justify booting New York residents from trusted traveler programs.

The admission came in a filing related to a lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General's office after the Trump administration barred New Yorkers from programs like Global Entry, meant to speed international travelers through the airport.

DHS had previously said the ban was lifted because New York has since amended the Green Light Law to allow for information-sharing of New York DMV records "as necessary for an individual seeking acceptance into a trusted traveler program, or to facilitate vehicle imports and/or exports."

"Defendants (DHS) deeply regret the foregoing inaccurate or misleading statements and apologize to the Court and plaintiffs for the need to make these corrections at this late stage in the litigation," Acting US attorney Audrey Strauss said. "Defendants respectfully request that the Court accept this letter to correct the record, and permit them to withdraw their motions to dismiss and for summary judgment."

RELATED | New York to sue federal government over suspension of Global Entry program for travelers

However, New York still restricts sharing DMV information with U.S. 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. 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," Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said. "The Green Light Law ultimately undermines the efforts of law enforcement officers, criminalizing their mission to secure the nation and the American people from threats and furthering the risk to their own lives. When jurisdictions like New York fail to cooperate with federal authorities, they operate more like refuges from criminal behavior, not sanctuary havens."

DHS says blocking federal law enforcement officers from accessing DMV records creates a significant threat public safety. They say the data provided by state officials is vital to identify foreign terrorist connections and build criminal cases and identify criminal suspects including gang members, sex offenders, drug smugglers and others.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released the following statement about the lifting of the ban:

"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. I am glad that this issue has finally been resolved for all New Yorkers."

Attorney General Letitia James said the lift on the ban is a win.

"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. 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."

Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia have Green Light laws, but Cuomo says New York is the only state that was targeted by this administration for retaliation.

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