Calling the Department of Homeland Security's move to block New Yorkers from joining and renewing Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler programs "an abuse of power in a hyper-politicized government," Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state would sue the Trump administration.
"It is extortion. It is hurting New Yorkers to advance their political agenda, and we're going to fight back," Cuomo told a group of reporters. "And we're going to do it forthwith, as they say."
The Trump administration's change of policy was announced on Wednesday, in a letter Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf sent to the state DMV, claiming that the state's new Green Light Act prevented Customs and Border Patrol, which administers Trusted Traveler programs like Global Entry, from getting the information necessary to process the applications for New Yorkers.
The Green Light Act resembles laws passed by 15 other states and Washington, D.C. that allow undocumented New Yorkers to obtain drivers licenses by not requiring applicants to provide a social security number.
Governor Cuomo pointed out the obvious flaws in the Trump administration's logic: the federal government does not require Trusted Traveler applicants to produce a driver's license because the federal government conducts a lengthy background check on applicants, and the state already turns over criminal records to the FBI.
"I understand they want the DMV database. They want those records. I don't want ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to have those records. Because ICE will use those records as a means to do deportations. The way ICE does a deportation has wreaked havoc all over this state," Cuomo said.
Cuomo also referenced interviews given by Ken Cuccinelli, the Trump administration's acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, as evidence that the move is designed to be punitive, not to actually improve safety.
“I know that the state of Washington is looking at a law like New York’s ‘Green Light Law,’ ” Cuccinelli said, according to the Washington Post. “They should know that their citizens are going to lose the convenience of entering these Trusted Traveler Programs, just as New York’s did.”
As the press conference was happening, Congressman Lee Zeldin, a Republican from New York, tweeted that Cuomo was the one disrespecting the "rule of law" because he signed a piece of legislation into law in his capacity as governor of New York State.
Around 175,000 people currently enrolled in Trusted Traveler programs in New York will not be able to re-enroll after their permits expire, including some 30,000 truck drivers who use the programs to drive back and forth between Canada and New York; another 80,000 who have submitted applications or have been given conditional approval will also be denied, according to the AP.
"This will hurt this state economically, it will hurt businesses, it will hurt regions of the state, it will hurt Buffalo," Cuomo said.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said they'd also be suing the Trump administration for "the unlawful and irrational suspension" of the programs.
“This is a political attack meant to punish New Yorkers for passing common-sense laws that fly in the face of Trump’s war on immigrant communities,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, in a statement.
The governor insisted that he was giving "broader context" to the situation when he held up a newspaper to counter the spectacle of President Trump holding up a copy of the Washington Post proclaiming his recent impeachment acquittal.
"That is fake news. He was not found innocent. He was celebrating and suggesting a falsity. He was acquitted, not exonerated. There is a world of difference between the two," Cuomo said. "We have here the New York Daily Truth that has an accurate, factual headline."
The governor added, "You want to extort me to give you the records? I never will. I never will. Don't try to extort me, and don't try to extort New Yorkers. It didn't even work with Ukraine. Learn the lesson."