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In December last year, the state of New York introduced a new law which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a state driving license and, in a twist that few would have seen coming, this law is now being cited as the reason why residents of the state of New York can no longer apply for or renew Global Entry membership.
New York’s “Green Light Law” allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a driving license while protecting the details they supply to the DMV from federal agencies (it’s how the state ensures that the federal government can’t use the law against the undocumented immigrants).
A federal agency wishing to view a Green Light Law submission to the DMV would need to produce a court order before the information would be released, and the Department of Homeland Security is now citing this aspect of the law as the reason why New York state residents can no longer participate in four of the federal government’s “Trusted Traveler” programs – Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI & FAST.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf has told Fox News that his department has sent a letter to New York indicating that, because of the restrictions placed upon his agency by the Green Light Law “New York residents are no longer eligible to enroll in these Trusted Traveler Programs“.
According to CNN, the letter explains that the new restrictions are being placed on New York State residents because the Green Light Law “prevents DHS from accessing New York DMV records in order to determine whether a [Trusted Traveler Program] applicant or re-applicant meets program eligibility requirements“.
Importantly, one program which appears to have escaped this move by the DHS is TSA PreCheck. According to sources who have seen the letter, TSA Precheck doesn’t get mentioned in the list of programs that New York state residents are now barred from using (presumably because it would create serious issues at TSA checkpoints across the nation if all traveling New Yorkers had to use the regular TSA lines).
This Is Utter Nonsense
Leaving aside the fact that you apparently now have to be a Fox News viewer if you want to find out what the government is announcing (at the time of writing there is no mention of this news on the CBP website or the DHS website and a federal law enforcement official confirmed to CNN that CBP in New York had not received an official directive from headquarters as of late last night), this move by the government makes very little sense….unless you assume that it’s a purely retaliatory action against a state that has a tendency to thumb its nose at the current administration.
Former acting ICE Director John Sandweg has already confirmed that laws such as New York’s Green Light Law do not affect the DHS’ vetting processes for Truster Traveler programs…
…and anyone who has applied for Global Entry will tell you that the information that is requested and the checks that are performed go far and beyond anything that the DMV may have on file.
Most of the government’s security apparatus is used to vet people for the various Trusted Traveler programs so the idea that the lack of access to DMV information (supplied under the Green Light law) would somehow prevent the DHS from making an informed decision about a person’s suitability for one of these programs is utter nonsense.
What exactly are people supposedly telling the DMV that the combined might of the government’s law enforcement services can’t easily find out if a person subjects themselves to scrutiny (as they would if they applied for a Trusted Traveler program)?
It’s more than a little amusing to think that the DHS would have us believe that criminals living in the state of New York would feel secure in applying for Trusted Traveler programs, and would happily subject all the information they would have to provide to the scrutiny of the government’s security and law enforcement agencies, as long as the DMV is not allowed to release information they supplied when applying for a driving license.
How dumb do they think we are?
The rights and wrongs of New York’s Green Light law are not the issue here. The issue is that the federal government is claiming that an element of state law is preventing it from carrying out its duty when that’s very clearly not the case.
I really couldn’t care less about the Green Light law. I have no opinion on whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I do care when I see the federal government putting unnecessary restrictions on citizens while claiming something that’s patently untrue.
The limitations that New York’s Green Light law places on federal law enforcement may well be irritating and annoying (to them) but it in no way prevents those agencies from fully vetting people for the nation’s Trusted Traveler programs.
The sad fact is that the move to exclude residents of New York state from participating in Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST is a purely political one and has nothing to do with keeping the rest of us safe…and that makes it reprehensible.