New York to Sue Federal Government Over Trusted Traveler Ban

Washington DC

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the state’s intent to sue the federal government over its decision to ban New Yorkers from applying and reapplying to Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler Programs. According to a statement from the governor’s office, the lawsuit will argue that the decision is a violation of New York’s sovereign immunity, denies state residences equal protection and is arbitrary and capricious. 

“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,” Governor Cuomo said in a written statement. “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.”

In a statement posted to Twitter, acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf said that he called Governor Cuomo shortly after the lawsuit was announced denied that the action was retaliatory. 

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“I made clear to the governor that if the State of New York restores access to mission-critical law enforcement information, then New Yorkers will once again be able to enroll in CBP Trusted Traveler Programs,” acting Secretary Wolf said. “I also made clear to the governor that this action has nothing to do with drivers licenses and has everything to do with the breakdown in information sharing from the State of New York.”

The DHS announced its ban last week in response to New York’s Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses in New York and prevents federal immigration agencies from accessing this Department of Motor Vehicle data. Industry organizations, including the U.S. Travel Association and the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), spoke out against the move, arguing that it would undermine travel efficiency and security. ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby questioned the DHS rationale, noting that travelers in the Global Entry program have produced a valid passport, submitted fingerprints and passed a background check in order to qualify. Advisors Luxury Travel Advisor has spoken with are split on the issue, largely along partisan lines. 

The ban applies to four Trusted Traveler programs – Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS and FAST – but not to TSA Precheck. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia have laws similar to Green Light; while their residents have not been banned from Trusted Traveler programs, Trump administration officials have said that they could implement similar measures for other states that restrict access to DMV records. 

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