DHS makes false statements to deny New Yorkers from participating in Global Entry program
The Department of Homeland Security has admitted that it made false statements to defend a decision earlier this year to block New York residents from participating in Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry.
The admission in a court filing on Thursday July 23, 2020, came on the same day the department announced it will allow state residents to participate in the program again.
DHS blocked New Yorkers from the program over provisions in a state law protecting the information of undocumented immigrants applying for driver's licenses to be shared with federal immigration enforcement agencies.
However, several other states, whose residents are able to participate in the Trusted Traveler Programs -- which expedite service for preapproved travelers entering the US -- do not currently provide federal authorities with full access to applicants' driving history, the court filing notes.
The filing was a surprising retreat by the administration in its continuing battle with Democratic-led states and cities over immigration policy.
Federal officials had previously insisted that New York was an outlier in the restrictions it placed on the access the immigration authorities have to State Department of Motor Vehicles records.
For that reason, they argued, New York was endangering national security and could not be trusted to participate in Global Entry and related programs.
But in their filing on Thursday, the government lawyers acknowledged that several other states, Washington, D.C., and some U.S. territories also limited access to motor vehicle information and had not been subject to similar clampdowns.
“The acting secretary of homeland security has decided to restore New York residents’ access to” what is officially known as the Trusted Traveler Program “effective immediately," the filling reads.
The filing came in response to lawsuits filed by New York State and the New York Civil Liberties Union over the decision to kick New Yorkers out of the programs.
“Defendants deeply regret the foregoing inaccurate or misleading statements and apologize to the court and plaintiffs for the need to make these corrections at this late stage in the litigation,” said Audrey Strauss, the acting United States attorney in Manhattan.
In their own filing, Justice Department lawyers for the Homeland Security Department echoed Ms. Strauss's letter nearly word for word, asking the court to “accept this notice to correct the record, and permit defendants to withdraw the aforementioned arguments.”
Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, welcomed the department’s decision to reverse course, saying the state’s lawsuit had been focused on “stopping the president’s irrational, arbitrary and retaliatory rule.”
The filing was the first tangible explanation for the timing of the Department of Homeland Security’s unexpected announcement on Thursday that it was allowing New Yorkers back into what is officially known as the Trusted Traveler Program.
The suspension of New Yorkers from the travel programs came as Mr. Trump renewed his battle against cities and states that have embraced so-called sanctuary laws.
On Feb. 4, Mr. Trump criticized New York in his State of the Union address for not letting the police detain undocumented immigrants until federal agents could pick them up for deportation proceedings, and he blamed the city’s sanctuary policies for the rape and murder of a 92-year-old Queens woman by an undocumented immigrant who was accused in the crimes.
The next day, Chad F. Wolf, the acting homeland security secretary and a favorite of Mr. Trump’s for his hard-line stance on enforcement matters, said on Fox News that New Yorkers would be barred from the travel programs because of the sanctuary policies.
At the time, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo condemned the move, which had the potential to slow the travel routines of at least 175,000 New Yorkers, as “a form of extortion.”
The dispute escalated over the course of a week, until Mr. Cuomo met with President Trump at the White House in February in hopes of working out a compromise.
Source: Parkchester Times and News Agency