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Attorney General Letitia James has filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration over a new federal policy that prohibits New Yorkers from enrolling or re-enrolling in the federal government's Trusted Traveler Programs. The suit, filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the two agencies' acting-leaders, argues that the policy change is arbitrary and poses a threat to New Yorkers' safety and the State's economy, directly harms hundreds of thousands of individual residents, and interferes with New York's rights as a sovereign state.

"This is political retribution, plain and simple, and while the president may want to punish New York for standing up to his xenophobic policies, we will not back down," said James. "We plan to take legal action and sue the Trump Administration for its unfair targeting of New York State residents. This new policy will negatively impact travelers, workers, commerce, and our economy, so we will fight the president's shortsighted crusade against his former home. We will not allow New Yorkers to be targeted or bullied by an authoritarian thug."

The lawsuit, which was brought by James, will argue that the Federal Department of Homeland Security has violated New York's sovereign immunity, not provided our residents with equal protection and is acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner that denies the rights and privileges of all New Yorkers. Letitia James has also been defending challenges to New York's Green Light Law.

"Time and time again President Trump and his Washington enablers have gone out of their way to hurt New York and other blue states whenever they can as punishment for refusing to fall in line with their dangerous and divisive agenda," Cuomo said. "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. 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."

DHS' decision immediately affects tens of thousands of New Yorkers and will impact hundreds of thousands of state residents within a year:

  • 50,000 individuals have been conditionally approved for Global Entry, but have not yet completed their interview and thus will be "cut off" from completing their application.
  • 30,000 additional New York residents are currently pending the vetting process for Global Entry.
  • Another 175,000 New Yorkers, whose Global Entry memberships expire this year, will not be permitted to re-enroll in the program.
  • Researchers estimate that reducing wait time at John F. Kennedy Airport alone could save millions of dollars in lost time.

Further, economists have estimated that border delays on the U.S./Canada border have already cost American businesses billions of dollars each year and resulted in tens of thousands of jobs lost, making the president's decision even more harmful to New Yorkers — especially those in Western New York. In fact, New Yorkers seeking to commute across New York's land borders with Canada — specifically those in Western New York — will be severely harmed by the Trump Administration's new policy:

  • 30,000 drivers in the FAST program will lose access to the automated system.
  • Drivers in the NEXUS program — which, in Western New York alone, services 6,500 trips across the Peace Bridge, the Whirlpool Bridge, the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, and the Rainbow Bridge each day — would be severely handicapped.
  • 25-percent of auto traffic utilizing the Peace Bridge relies on the NEXUS program and 60-percent of truck drivers utilize the FAST program.
  • A car driven by a non-NEXUS driver typically takes four times longer to move across the Peace Bridge than a car driven by a NEXUS driver.

Additionally, DHS has stated that the exportation of used vehicles titled and registered in New York State could be delayed and could be costlier under its new policy.

According to the Governor's Communications Director Dani Lever, the Governor was scheduled to meet with President Trump yesterday afternoon to discuss the federal action to block New York from the Trusted Travel Program. Prior to the meeting Thursday Cuomo said he is willing to compromise, making some data available to the federal government.  About an hour and a half before their meeting the President insultred Cuomo's brother in a post on Twitter, disparagingly refering to him as 'Fredo', a character in 'The Godfather' who betrays his brother.

After Cuomo met with Trump, Lever released this statement: "As the Governor previously said, we believe DHS's action was politically motivated and unwarranted as the FBI already has information regarding criminal records and TTP applicants already go through an extensive federal background check. The President said that this is an issue he wants to work on and that he would follow up with the Governor next week."   

The Governor's Office says the relevant facts are:

  • Last Wednesday the Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary said on Fox News that they would block New York from using the Global Entry Programs. At close of business that day New York State received a letter saying that New York would be blocked from the TTP program because they would not grant access to the DMV database.
  • Last Thursday the Governor spoke to the Acting Secretary and said that DHS already had all New York State information on criminal backgrounds through the FBI and that, while redundant and unnecessary, the DMV could provide data specifically for TTP enrollee applicant cases. DHS rejected the offer.
  • This past Monday the Department of Justice announced various actions against different states which allow undocumented drivers. Later that day the news organization BuzzFeed printed a memo from DHS listing different ways to "punish" states that allowed undocumented drivers.

"The memo reported on by BuzzFeed is a clear, documented admission by the Trump administration that they are purposely targeting law-abiding U.S. citizens to play partisan politics. This is Ukraine-style extortion right here in our own country," Cuomo said. "The Trump administration should release the memo immediately. Make no mistake: We will not allow New York to be used as President Trump's punching bag, and we will fight against this illegal and retaliatory policy with every tool available until it is overturned."

Congressman Tom Reed (R - New York 23rd Congressional District, which includes Tompkins County) released a statement after the meeting, supporting the President's point of view that the state must provide complete, real-time DMV data to US Customs and Border Protection.

"I am pleased to hear that Governor Cuomo recognizes this as a fact following his meeting with President Trump. As the home of 9/11, we must never forget its lessons," Reed said. "I encourage the administration and Governor Cuomo to continue their dialog to resolve this matter as their public comments have indicated. I stand ready to assist."

The Governor's office says he believes that, as the TTP program is administered by DHS with in-person interviews and an exhaustive federal background check process, the state's database is irrelevant and DHS's request is unnecessary. In any event, DHS stated governmental needs can be met by the State which can provide DMV data for TTP enrollee cases. With all logical governmental rationales extinguished, the TTP blockage is clearly politically motivated, an abuse of government power, and illegal.

Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS, and FAST, facilitate the entry of pre-approved travelers into the United States using expedited lanes at airports and international borders. Under the Department of Homeland Security's ban, residents of the State of New York will no longer be eligible to apply for or renew membership in U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Programs. Such programs are operated by the Department of Homeland Security who independently verifies identity and citizenship, and DMV data and information is not necessary for such programs.

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