The U.S. Attorneys for all of New York's four districts have come out in opposition of a state law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers' licenses, which President Donald Trump's administration has used as a pretext to exclude New Yorkers from certain trusted traveler programs.
A statement released by the four U.S. Attorneys in the state -- James Kennedy, Jr., Geoffrey Berman, Richard Donoghue, and Grant Jaquith -- on Monday called for state officials to comply with the Department of Homeland Security's request for access to New York's motor vehicle data. (The U.S. Attorneys represent the federal Department of Justice in legal matters.)
"The disturbing truth is that under the newly enacted statute, the Customs and Border Protection Officers working today at New York’s 13 ports of entry – which include both the busiest port on the entire northern border of the United States (the longest land border in the world), and the busiest international air passenger gateway into North America – are unable even to check the registration or the driver’s license status of individuals presenting themselves for admission into our country," the statement read. "Border Patrol Agents, who secure the border between the ports of entry, likewise can no longer check vehicle or driver’s license information. Forcing officers who serve as our nation’s frontline defense against dangerous criminals entering the country to make these important determinations in the dark dramatically diminishes the safety of all."
"Restoring collaboration and information sharing furthers our effort to secure justice for all, preserve public safety, protect individual rights, and promote due process, bringing us ever closer to a sanctuary built on the rule of law and fairness for everyone," the statement continued.
Meanwhile, state Attorney General Letitia James announced she has filed suit in Manhattan federal court against the Trump administration on Monday. The suit comes after the DHS, citing the Green Light Law, said New Yorkers would no longer be able to enroll or re-enroll in Global Entry and other trusted traveler programs that expedite security clearance at borders and airports for approved participants.
DHS officials have said they cannot vet people applying for these fast-track passes at borders and points of entry, unless it can access the state's database of driving records. James said state law enforcement officials routinely share criminal records with the FBI and other federal agencies.
James's lawsuit alleges the federal government is violating New Yorkers' right to equal protection and equal state sovereignty under the U.S. Constitution. The White House has not yet replied to a request for comment.
"This is nothing more than an attempt to retaliate against New York state and to continue to feed red meat to President Trump’s political base, and we will not tolerate it," she said at a press conference Monday. "I think what’s important is the economic impact on our borders – and I’m particularly concerned about western NY. This will result in a significant impact to the economy and to the commerce of western NY, and they are already seeking to recover from a downturn in the economy, and they can ill afford that. It has nothing to do with safety. It’s nothing more than political retribution."
The Mayor of Buffalo sent a letter to the DHS Friday pleading for New York's reinstatement to the trusted traveler programs, noting his city's dependence on ease of safe border crossing afforded by programs like Global Entry and NEXUS which expedites marine, vehicle and pedestrian border crossings between America and Canada.
"As you know, Western New York relies on the strength of our cross-border economy, as we are strategically located within 500 miles of 40% of the bi-national population," Mayor Byron Brown wrote. "Our region is a gateway for commerce, generating approximately $85 billion in annual trade. Many City of Buffalo residents who rely on accessible border crossings for their livelihoods use NEXUS to commute to work on a daily basis...By suspending new enrollment/reenrollment in Trusted Traveler programs, there will be an increase in the delivery costs of goods to and from Canada, and commute times will increase to unacceptable levels."
With Fred Mogul / WNYC