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Trump Administration Takes Aim At New York State Sanctuary Laws


Travelers from New York are caught in the middle of a fight between the state and the Trump administration. The Department of Homeland Security is mad about a new state law that blocks federal immigration agents from accessing New York's motor vehicle records, and so DHS says it will no longer allow New York residents to enroll in Trusted Travelers Programs. NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: If you were applying to become a Trusted Traveler in Buffalo or Brooklyn, you are out of luck. New Yorkers are no longer eligible for Global Entry and other popular programs that allow you to skip the long lines at international airports and border crossings.

KEN CUCCINELLI: This will have an immediate impact on New York residents.

ROSE: That's Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary at DHS. He says Homeland Security had to take this unprecedented step because of New York's so-called green light law. That law allows immigrants in the country illegally to apply for driver's licenses. More than a dozen other states do the same, but New York's law goes further. It prohibits the state's DMV from sharing information with immigration authorities unless a judge orders them to. Cuccinelli says that means DHS can't properly vet Trusted Traveler applicants.

CUCCINELLI: Here we have a state that was one of the targets on 9/11 walking backwards quite intentionally to bar the sharing of law enforcement-relevant information and critically criminal records, which are kept up to date in DMV databases.

ROSE: This is not the first time the Trump administration has picked a fight with a sanctuary city or state. Officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement say these sanctuaries are making their jobs harder by limiting access to records and requiring warrants to hand over immigrants in their jails. It's a frequent theme for President Trump at his rallies and in his State of the Union speech this week.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: In sanctuary cities, local officials order police to release dangerous criminal aliens to prey upon the public instead of handing them over to ICE to be safely removed.

ROSE: Immigrant advocates and New York officials say the president is politicizing a handful of heinous crimes, like the murder of a 92-year-old New York City woman in January, in order to smear all undocumented immigrants.

ANDREW CUOMO: It is pure politics. And if they have to inconvenience New Yorkers to make their political points, so be it.

ROSE: That's New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking today to member station WAMC in Albany. Cuomo says the green light law is making New York safer by ensuring that everyone on the road has a driver's license. And he says immigrant communities are more likely to trust police if they're not worried about being turned over to ICE, which is precisely why Cuomo thinks the Trump administration wants access to state DMV records in the first place.

CUOMO: It's really about, we want the information for ICE because ICE is how we deport undocumented people. And undocumented people are bad people.

ROSE: DHS says roughly 175,000 New Yorkers will lose their Trusted Traveler status by the end of the year as their credentials expire, and they won't be allowed to renew. And another 50,000 who had been tentatively approved will now be rejected. They can still travel, but not in the fast lanes.

ROBERTA BARNETT: I'm definitely frustrated by it.

ROSE: Roberta Barnett lives in New York City. She says the announcement from DHS makes no sense because like a lot of New Yorkers, she doesn't even have a driver's license. And yet, she's been tentatively approved for Global Entry in time for her trips to Japan and Europe later this year.

BARNETT: So it's additionally frustrating because it would not matter in my particular case.

ROSE: Indeed, a driver's license is not required to qualify for Global Entry, just a passport and proof of where you live. And for now at least, you have to show that you live somewhere other than New York.

Joel Rose, NPR News.


Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.
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