DHS Chief: Trump, Cuomo Meeting 'Productive'

Discussions to continue to allow New Yorkers to join trusted traveler programs

WBEN Newsroom
February 13, 2020 - 5:44 pm

NEXUS kiosks located at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. December 4, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the White House on Thursday in the hope he could persuade President Donald Trump to reverse a decision to boot New Yorkers from programs that allow travelers to avoid long lines at the U.S. border.

The Democratic governor and Republican president met Thursday to discuss their dispute over New York’s new “Green Light” law, which lets unauthorized immigrants obtain state driver’s licenses and also bars federal immigration agents from accessing state motor vehicle records.

The Trump administration said that cutoff from state records threatened public safety, and responded by blocking New Yorkers from enrolling in Global Entry and other “trusted traveler” programs. New York then sued over its expulsion.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the leaders held a “productive meeting.” He called the relationship between the state of New York and the federal government an important one but said it “has been made difficult by the unilateral actions of New York State regarding the sharing of critical security information with DHS.” He said in a tweet that discussions would continue to find a mutually agreeable solution.

New York State Lieutenent Governor Kathy Hochul told WBEN Friday, "at the heart of it, the Governor and I are committed to getting this resolved. We believe our proposal goes more than half way and should resolve the situation."  Hochul said she and Governor Cuomo are hopeful for an answer from the president within a week.

The Lt Gov remains troubled by a leaked memo that she claims is the real reason why the program was suspended. "A Department of Homeland Security memo looking for ways to punish states that have enacted policies like the Green Light law."  Hochul added, "as an American, to know that our federal government is trying to punish a state because we won't go along with their wishes, it's not unlike what happened in Ukraine."  She said every American should be alarmed by that.

In a tweet before the meeting, Trump said Cuomo “must understand that National Security far exceeds politics.”

“New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harrassment, start cleaning itself up, and lowering taxes. Build relationships, but don’t bring Fredo!” Trump said, tacking on a insult referring to Cuomo’s brother, the CNN host Chris Cuomo.

Cuomo said he’s willing to restore federal access to driving records on a limited basis.

But in a midday news conference, he pledged not to let federal immigration agents see lists of people who had applied for a new type of license that doesn’t require applicants to prove they are in the U.S. legally.

“If they think they’re going to extort New York into giving them a database of undocumented people, they’re wrong. I will never do that,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo in television appearances said he would only propose giving federal officials access to the state driving records of applicants to traveler programs, who already must submit to an in-person interview and a background check.

“There is no undocumented person who’s going for an in-person interview before the federal government,” Cuomo said on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.”

Cuomo's office issued this statement following Thursday's meeting:

"Governor Cuomo met with President Trump today to discuss the situation and the dire need to rectify it. Governor Cuomo restated the initial solution that he proposed to the DHS Acting Secretary last Thursday on our willingness to allow federal officials access to DMV records only for individuals applying to the Trusted Traveler Program. 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."   

Department of Homeland Security Secretary officials say New York’s decision to cut off federal access to driving records was part of a pattern of the state hindering the work of immigration and border enforcement agents. They said the lack of access to driving records would make it harder to catch fugitives or to quickly confirm someone’s identity.

Trump and Cuomo have a long history that has turned decidedly nasty over the years. Last year, Trump lashed out on Twitter, accusing New York officials of harassing his New York businesses in search of “anything at all they can find to make me look as bad as possible.” He complained that his family was spending a fortune on lawyers. Four months later, Trump declared that Florida would become his permanent residence after he leaves the White House, not New York, saying he had been “treated very badly by the political leaders of both the city and state.”

Cuomo replied: “Good riddance” and “He’s all yours, Florida.”

The two have clashed on Trump’s income tax cuts, which imposed a $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, hiking federal taxes for many homeowners in New York, and on New York’s ban on hydraulic fracturing. Trump says New York is missing out on a “goldmine” of energy revenue.

 

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