Homeland Security suspends travel programmes for New Yorkers

NEW YORK (AP) — The United States (US) Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Wednesday that it would no longer let New York residents enroll in its ‘trusted traveller’ programmes because of a new state law that blocked federal immigration officials from accessing motor vehicle records.

In a three-page letter, DHS said the legislation, dubbed the ‘Green Light’ law, prevents federal agencies from protecting residents from “menacing threats to national security and public safety”.

The sweeping move came a day after US President Donald Trump slammed New York, a sanctuary city, in his State of the Union address.

Sanctuary cities are localities that provide added protection to immigrants and refuse to cooperate with federal officials, and federal law enforcement which has only escalated since Trump took office.

The law, which went into effect in December 2019, allowed people without legal permission to be in the US to apply for driver’s licenses.

It also included a provision prohibiting state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) officials from providing any of its data to entities that enforce immigration law unless a judge orders them to do so.

The law blocks US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which patrols the US-Canada border in New York and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from obtaining the vehicle’s owners information.

Acting Head of the Homeland Security Department Chad Wolf called New York’s new law “disappointing” during a Fox News interview late Wednesday night.

He said the suspension of the programmes, used by travellers to quickly move through customs and security at airports, was effective immediately.

“New York residents can’t enroll or reenroll in these trusted traveller programmes that customs and border protections offers because we no longer have access to make sure that they meet those programme requirements,” he said.

A Senior Adviser to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, said the move by DHS was politically motivated.

“This is obviously political retaliation by the federal government and we’re going to review our legal options,” Azzopardi said.

Cuomo, a Democrat, approved the ‘Green Light’ law last summer, allowing individuals to use foreign-issued documents to prove their age and identity so they can apply for driving privileges.

Lawmakers and Cuomo became worried that ICE and CBP would be able to easily obtain information about people seeking a licence, and possibly making it easier for them to be deported.