February 6, 2020 / 4:50 PM / 10 days ago

Trump administration limits New Yorkers' access to travel passes

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Trump administration has restricted New Yorkers’ access to several programs that allow faster security checks when they enter the United States, widening a dispute over a New York state law limiting cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

The announcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) outraged New York residents who utilize the programs - or hoped to - and raised concerns in the travel industry and trucking sector that rely on expedited checks on the U.S.-Canada border and at airports.

DHS said on Thursday the action, which took effect on Wednesday, would bar both new passes and renewals of Global Entry and three programs that allow faster travel between the United States, Canada and Mexico, but would not apply to Transportation Security Administration pre-checks.

Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told reporters the state’s lack of security cooperation with federal immigration authorities necessitated the suspension of the travel programs.

He assailed the state over a law passed last year that allows immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses even if they lack legal status, while it also limited the information the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles can share with federal immigration authorities.

Cuccinelli called the law “dangerous” and “thoughtless in terms of unintended consequences” because of federal authorities’ need to access the information for criminal and terrorism investigations. He said the programs would remain suspended until New York state agreed to share requested information.

President Donald Trump has made immigration crackdown a focus of his 2020 re-election campaign and criticized “sanctuary” jurisdictions during his annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, referring to cities and other jurisdictions where local officials decline to hand over illegal immigrants for deportation.

A senior adviser to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, said it was “obviously political retaliation” and that the governor’s office was studying its legal options.

At a U.S. government office in Manhattan Thursday morning, a group of about a dozen New Yorkers who had paid the $100 enrollment fee for the Global entry program and were waiting for final interviews were blindsided by the news.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer asked for identification to verify New York residency and then said all appointments were canceled.

“It took maybe four months to get this interview and then they willy-nilly cancel it,” said Stephen Crane, a retired New York Supreme Court Justice who was waiting with his wife, Elaine, for her interview.

The DHS estimated the suspension could affect 150,000 to 200,000 New York residents who attempt to renew membership in the travel programs if the ban remains in place through the end of the fiscal year, which runs to Sept. 30. It also affects a program for commercial truck drivers, known as FAST, which is heavily used along the U.S.-Canada border.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, speaks to the news media at the White House in Washington, U.S. September 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Kendra Hems, president of the Trucking Association of New York, which represents approximately 600 motor carriers, said the new restrictions were very worrisome.

“It’s obviously a major concern. Canada is our biggest trading partner,” she said. “It could create some pretty massive border delays, as well.”

The Trump administration continues to weigh similar actions against other states, Cuccinelli said.

Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington, D.C., and Roselle Chen in New York; Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Howard Goller, Alistair Bell and Leslie Adler

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