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

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York is suing the federal government over the Department of Homeland Security's decision to ban New Yorkers from the Trusted Traveler Program that enables people to quickly return from outside the country.

"It's an abuse of power," Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "It's extortion. It is hurting New Yorkers to advance their political agenda, and we're going to fight back."

DHS cited the new state law that bars immigration officials from accessing motor vehicle records, saying it prevents federal agencies from protecting residents from "menacing threats to national security and public safety."

But Cuomo called it unfounded and pure retaliation, saying that applicants for Trusted Traveler Programs like Global Entry require an in-person meeting with a federal official, meaning the New York state DMV database is not relevant.

"This is unbounded arrogance, disrespect of the rule of law, hyper political government and another form of extortion," he said. "Who knows? You are looking for a rational basis. There is no rational basis. It's all politics. New York is their favorite target."

Cuomo approved the Green Light law last summer, allowing individuals to use foreign-issued documents to prove their age and identity so they can apply for driving privileges. Lawmakers and Cuomo became worried that ICE and CBP would be able to easily obtain information about people seeking a license, and possibly making it easier for them to be deported.

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

The lawsuit will be brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James and will argue that the Federal Department of Homeland Security has violated New York's sovereign immunity, not provided our residents with equal protection, and is acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner that denies the rights and privileges of all New Yorkers.

James has also been defending challenges to New York's Green Light Law.

"Time and time again, President Trump and his Washington enablers have gone out of their way to hurt New York and other blue states whenever they can as punishment for refusing to fall in line with their dangerous and divisive agenda," Cuomo said. "The Department of Homeland Security's decision to ban New Yorkers from the Trusted Traveler Program is yet another example of this administration's disrespect of the rule of law, hyper-partisan politics and use of extortion. There is no rational basis for this politically motivated ban, and we are taking legal action to stop the federal government from inconveniencing New Yorkers to score political points."

Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS, and FAST, facilitate the entry of pre-approved travelers into the United States using expedited lanes at airports and international borders. Under the Department of Homeland Security's ban, residents of the State of New York will no longer be eligible to apply for or renew membership in U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Programs.

Such programs are operated by the Department of Homeland Security who independently verifies identity and citizenship, and DMV data and information is not necessary for such programs.

"This is political retribution, plain and simple, and while the president may want to punish New York for standing up to his xenophobic policies, we will not back down," James said. "We plan to take legal action and sue the Trump Administration for its unfair targeting of New York State residents. This new policy will negatively impact travelers, workers, commerce, and our economy, so we will fight the president's shortsighted crusade against his former home. We will not allow New Yorkers to be targeted or bullied by an authoritarian thug."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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