Federal government officials admitted making “inaccurate” and “misleading” statements when the Department of Homeland Security enacted a policy in earlier this year that barred New York residents from enrolling in trusted traveler programs—a policy widely criticized at the time as a move to punish New York for protecting data on undocumented immigrants from federal agencies.

New York state and the New York Civil Liberties Union sued the DHS over the policy, and in a court filing Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said the federal government agencies “deeply regret the foregoing inaccurate or misleading statements and apologize to the court and (New York) for the need to make these corrections at this late stage,” according to reports.

Trusted traveler programs like Global Entry allow pre-screened participants faster security clearance at airports and borders. The DHS announced in February that New York residents could no longer enroll in the programs after the state passed a Green Light Law that allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers' licenses.

The U.S. Attorney's apology apparently was prompted by an announcement Thursday by the DHS allowing New Yorkers back into trusted traveler programs, recognizing that more than a dozen other states and municipalities also have laws similar to New York’s Green Light law yet only New York was singled out by the DHS.

The DHS has said its Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency needs the state DMV records for immigration investigations, while Governor Andrew Cuomo said the records would only be used so that "ICE can have a feeding frenzy assaulting undocumented people."

Ultimately, the state allowed ICE to have access to the DMV data of applicants to the trusted traveler programs, who are unlikely to be undocumented immigrants given the detailed background checks they undergo.

In his press briefing Friday, Cuomo criticized the Trump administration and DHS top officials for using the DHS as a “political tool” and wondered if the policy contributed to New York’s deadly COVID-19 toll.

“You can't use the Department of Homeland Security as a political tool—it doesn't work that way. And it's not just 'not right' and unethical and immoral, it's illegal,” Cuomo said. The governor also said he believes that Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting DHS Deputy Ken Cuccinelli “violated their oath of office. Nowhere in your oath of office does it say you can use government resources to advance political purposes,” Cuomo said.

He added, “I believe Mr. Wolf and Mr. Cuccinelli have possible criminal liability. I believe there is civil liability. It was a clear abuse of government power for political purposes.”

Cuomo went on to point out that New York’s expulsion from trusted traveler programs happened just as COVID-19 cases began emerging in America:

“Without the Trusted Traveler Program, you know what else happened? The lines at the airports backed up. You know when the lines at airports backed up? In February, in March. You know what was going on in the airports in February and March? What was going on? It's when the COVID cases were coming from Europe. That's when the COVID cases were coming from Europe, and they were playing their political games and they backed up the lines of people waiting to get through Customs and Border Patrol in dense areas, in tight quarters, waiting on a line because they were playing politics,” Cuomo said.

He called for a Congressional and DOJ investigation into DHS’s actions.

“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,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement.

The DHS seemed to indicate that the federal government will continue to pressure New York over its progressive immigration sanctuary status in a statement Thursday. “Unfortunately, New York State continues to restrict sharing DMV information with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for other enforcement efforts. The State further recently created new criminal penalties for individuals or entities, including law enforcement officials, who share such information with CBP and ICE. DHS is currently working with the Department of Justice to determine appropriate legal actions to address these problems," the statement said.

The restoration to trusted traveler programs comes as people with American passports are currently barred from many countries—Americans can only enter about three dozen countries because of the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 here, the New York Times reported.