The battle over the federal government's attempts to obtain New York's Department of Motor Vehicles data for immigration investigations took a turn Wednesday when Governor Andrew Cuomo said the Department of Homeland Security could have information on pre-screened trusted traveler applicants.
Last week, in what critics called an attempt to punish New York for allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers' licenses, the Trump administration announced that New Yorkers would no longer be able to apply or re-enroll in trusted traveler programs (TTP) such as Global Entry that allow pre-screened participants faster security clearance at airports and borders.
In an interview with WAMC Wednesday morning, Cuomo called the federal government's move "all politics" and said he would allow the DHS to have access to people applying for the trusted traveler programs -- in other words, New Yorkers who would already have to undergo a background check and need to show proof of citizenship or legal residency like a green card to qualify for Global Entry.
In other, other words: Cuomo will allow the DHS to have the data of people who are voluntarily submitting to background checks and unlikely to be the target of the immigration investigations to begin with.
Cuomo said he told Department of Homeland Security officials, "look, I will give you access to a TTP enrollee on a case by case basis. You want to look at our DMV database for TTP enrollees, fine -- because a TTP enrollee is going to sit with the federal government anyway to do an interview. So I'll give you that access."
“I’m calling their bluff,” he added. “I will never give them access to the DMV database. And I think that's what they really want, they want to (have) access to the undocumenteds so they can give it to ICE and ICE can have a feeding frenzy assaulting undocumented people."
Cuomo says he will meet with Trump in D.C. on Thursday to discuss the issue.
"You're knocking on the door saying, 'I'll burn down the house if you don't give me entry. I'll give you entry for the TTP enrollees on a case-by-case basis. Don't burn down the house.' They said, 'I'm burning down the house anyway.' All right, so now they're just arsonists," Cuomo added.
The New York State attorney general's office filed a lawsuit Monday against the Trump administration over the trusted traveler ejection, alleging the federal government is violating New Yorkers' right to equal protection and equal state sovereignty under the U.S. Constitution.
"Any information in the DMV is related to violations of the vehicle in traffic law -- which relate primarily to individuals driving with suspended licenses, DWIs. It has nothing to do with public safety," Attorney General Letitia James said during an interview with Brian Lehrer on WNYC Wednesday. "We are here again to protect the rights and the interests of undocumented individuals and all marginalized and vulnerable people in the state of NY who are unfortunately hiding from their government."
A White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley declined to comment on the agenda for Thursday's meeting between President Donald Trump and Cuomo, but told CBS, “The people of New York City especially understand what it means to have people come into this country without the proper documentation after 9/11. So I hope that Governor Cuomo can work with the president to come forth with some type of solution that allows the federal government to do its main function, which is to protect all Americans and their families."
On Monday, Buzzfeed News reported that DHS memos showed plans to retaliate against "states that limit access to records, such as closing down DHS offices there, refusing to accept their state identification, cutting TSA PreCheck services, and potentially subpoenaing for drivers’ licenses provided to undocumented immigrants." The Trump administration told Buzzfeed that those memos were merely "informational, draft, and pre-decisional."