Cuomo, James Plan to Sue Trump Administration

NY leaders claim administration's removal of NYers from Nexus is politically motivated

Tom Puckett
February 07, 2020 - 1:28 pm

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

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Albany, NY (WBEN) Governor Cuomo announced plans to sue the Trump administration over its decision to remove New Yorkers from Homeland Security's trusted traveler program, including NEXUS. Cuomo claims it is political in nature retaliating against the state's Green Light Law, which allows driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

Cuomo says 13 other states and the District of Columbia have Green Light Laws, but New York is the only state that has been targeted for retaliation. "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," Governor 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."

"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 Attorney General Tish 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."

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. Cuomo says 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.

Legal analyst Paul Cambria says New York may have legal ground under the commerce clause.

"It will be somewhere along the lines of interfering with the commerce clause of the Constitution in the sense of inhibiting free and equal travel as we have in other states," he said.

Cambria also provided a possible defense on behalf of the DHS.

"Some of it is going to be supremacy, in the sense that the federal government is the government that decides the policies on immigration, and that's the sole province of the federal government without the states in some way interfering with what the federal government thinks is best," he said. "

Listen to Cambria's full comments below:

The lawsuit is the latest salvo in an escalating fight over immigration policy between President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders in his home state.

In December, a new state law took effect allowing New York residents to apply for driver's licenses without having to prove they are in the U.S. legally. Part of that law also sought to protect immigrants in the country illegally who applied for the new licenses by prohibiting the state's Department of Motor Vehicles from giving records to federal immigration agents.

On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security retaliated, saying it would no longer allow New Yorkers to enroll, or renew their membership in, certain federal programs that make it easier for people traveling internationally to get through border security, including Global Entry.

In announcing the change, acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said New York had endangered public safety by barring federal agents from quickly accessing vehicle and criminal records to check for fugitive warrants or confirm someone's identification.

The ouster is expected to affect at least 175,000 New Yorkers now enrolled in the programs, who will be kicked out as their permits expire, plus around 30,000 commercial truck drivers enrolled in a program that eases their crossings into the U.S. from Canada.

Several other states have similar policies of allowing immigrants in the country illegally to get driver's licenses, but New York is the only state that bans the sharing of motor vehicle records with immigration agents, Department of Homeland Security officials said.

Trump has been singling out New York in recent months for especially harsh criticism over so-called sanctuary policies for immigrants.

The president assailed New York City officials in his State of the Union address over its policy of not turning over some criminal defendants wanted for immigration violations. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also recently sent subpoenas to law enforcement in Denver and New York seeking information on immigrants they hope to deport.

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