DHS Suspending Nexus Enrollment Immediately

A direct response to New York State's Green Light Law

International border crossing

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Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - The Trump Administration is blocking New York State from allowing residents to enroll in Trusted Traveler Programs, such as NEXUS, in direct response to the Green Light Law in New York State.

"This is huge," said Rosanna Berardi of Berardi Immigration Law. "This will affect thousands and thousands of  people especially here along the Canadian border in Western New York."

The order from the Department of Homeland Security came late Wednesday in the form of a letter to New York State Department of Motor Vehicle Commissioner Mark Schroeder.

The change suspends travel programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST, meant to expedite entry into the United States for low-risk travelers 

"The indication is that it takes effect immediately," said Berardi. 'I would say that if you are already scheduled for a Nexus interview, you should be fine because the Department of Homeland Security has already been able to verify your background information. But if your Nexus is expiring in a month or so, or if you're thinking of applying, I wouldn't spend the time or money doing that right now," she said. 

The change is a direct response to the Green Light law which took effect in December. It allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses and blocks federal immigration officials including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection officials from accessing motor vehicle records.

Berardi said the government cannot do its job without running background checks. "Part of the background check for the Trusted Traveler Program is to ensure that the person in question is in the United States legally. They can no longer do that."  She said it's unprecedented that the state is telling the feds that they can no longer look at the state database.  

New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan told WBEN "it's an outrageous attack by the federal government on New Yorkers. They have no recognition of the amount of cross border travel and trade that occurs at the Buffalo border crossing and other border crossings throughout the state."

Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns has been arguably the most vocal opponent of the law that would allow undocumented immigrants the ability to receive a driver's license.  "This is the first step," he said. "This is not the last time we hear from the federal government.  I believe in the future, they will block the use of the enhanced driver's license to get into Canada." If that happens, he said it's going to be catastrophic. "Everyone is going to need a passport to travel to and from Canada and the lines are going to be very long."

Kearns believes the simplest answer is for New York State to reconsider the Green Light law. "I'm calling on our federal officials to step up and I'm calling on state officials to tell Governor Cuomo to reconsider this dangerous law. 

Berardi is also concerned about another Trusted Traveler Program at the airport. The TSA Pre-Check. It is a pre-screening tool that allows people to go through a quicker line and not have to remove shoes, belts or coats. "Based on my knowledge, TSA Pre-Check is issued in accordance to the standards that Global Entry are also issued, through a full background check. If you already have TSA Pre-Check, you're good to go. But if you're hoping to get it, I don't think you're going to be able to."

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers whose applications for the programs are pending or will have to renew their enrollment by the end of the year will have to undergo customs and passport checks as they enter the country as a result of the action, said Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

DHS informed New York officials of the action in a letter a day earlier in response to the state's “Green Light” law, reflecting a Trump administration push back against states that have sought to protect people who are in the country without legal authorization amid a federal crackdown.

Other states have allowed people in the country without legal authorization to obtain a driver's license, but New York is the only state that has banned the Department of Motor Vehicles from sharing records with DHS, said Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for the agency.

There are about 150,000 New York residents who are now enrolled in programs such as Global Entry and will be forced out as they come up for their annual renewals by the end of the year. Another 80,000 people have applications pending or have been conditionally approved and will feel the effects of the ban immediately.

It could mean costly delays for the nearly 30,000 commercial truck drivers enrolled in a program that enables them to quickly cross the U.S.-Canada border at four ports of entry in upstate New York.

In a three-page letter, DHS said 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 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.

The law, which went into effect in December, allowed people without legal permission to be in the United States to apply for driver's licenses. It included a provision prohibiting state DMV officials from providing any of their data to entities that enforce immigration law unless a judge orders them to do so.

The law blocks U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which patrols the U.S.-Canada border in New York, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from obtaining the vehicles' owners' information.

Chad Wolf, acting head of the Homeland Security Department, called New York’s new law "disappointing" during a Fox News interview late Wednesday night. He said the suspension of the programs, used by travelers to quickly move through customs and security at airports, was effective immediately.

“They (New York residents) can't enroll or reenroll in these trusted traveler programs that customs and border protections offers because we no longer have access to make sure that they meet those program requirements,” he said.

A senior adviser to New York Gov. 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 license, and possibly making it easier for them to be deported.




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