WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government admitted late Thursday it had made false statements in a lawsuit brought by New York state and told a court it would immediately lift a ban on New York residents participating its Trusted Traveler Program.
The disclosure came hours after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had said it would reinstate New Yorkers in the program, which allows participants faster passage between the United States and either Canada or Mexico.
In February, the DHS cut off New York from the program in response to the state’s passage last June of a law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses and limiting federal access to license information.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan in a court filing Thursday acknowledged some other states and territories withhold driver information but have been allowed to participate. The revelations, they said, undermined a central argument that the government “is not able to assure itself of an applicant’s low-risk status because New York fails to share relevant DMV information.”
The government’s court filing said the agencies “deeply regret the foregoing inaccurate or misleading statements and apologize to the court and (New York) for the need to make these corrections at this late stage.”
New York sued DHS in February, saying the policy would prohibit 175,000 New Yorkers whose membership in the program expires this year from re-enrolling, and would “cut off” 80,000 New Yorkers with pending applications.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said Thursday the DHS decision to deny the state access was “political retribution, plain and simple, which is why we filed our lawsuit to stop the president from targeting and punishing New Yorkers.”
In April, the state amended its law that had limited federal immigration authorities from accessing records from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The change allowed the DMV to share information “as necessary for an individual seeking acceptance into a trusted traveler program, or to facilitate vehicle imports and/or exports.”
The DHS policy had prohibited New Yorkers from joining or renewing participation in so-called Trusted Traveler programs including Global Entry and three others - FAST, NEXUS AND SENTRI.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio and Gerry Doyle