The measure appears to be one of the Trump administration’s most significant retaliatory moves against “sanctuary cities” and other jurisdictions that limit local cooperation with federal immigration authorities. President Trump on Tuesday night blasted sanctuary cities during his State of the Union address and pledged to encourage action against their policies, which he says endanger U.S. citizens because they allow criminal immigrants to evade deportation.
An official with the Department of Homeland Security, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the plan, said late Wednesday that the move would affect the approximately 150,000 New York state residents who apply to the traveler programs each year. Travelers currently enrolled in Global Entry and programs such as SENTRI and NEXUS would not lose their status, but they will not be able to renew.
In his letter, Wolf said the state Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, more commonly known as the Green Light Law, enacted last June, made it impossible for DHS to properly vet applicants for the Trusted Traveler programs.
“Although DHS would prefer to continue our long-standing cooperative relationship with New York on a variety of these critical homeland security initiatives, this Act and the corresponding lack of security cooperation from the New York DMV requires DHS to take immediate action to ensure DHS’s efforts to protect the Homeland are not compromised,” Wolf wrote.
In addition to major international airports, New York also has busy border crossings with Canada, where drivers and pedestrians who cross frequently use the NEXUS program.
DHS officials rely on DMV data to obtain criminal records, corroborate addresses and physical characteristics, and obtain vehicle and property data, Wolf’s letter said.
By prohibiting Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from obtaining license plate data, even for suspects with violent criminal records, the sanctuary laws are placing federal officers at greater risk, he wrote.
Wolf also told the New York DMV that vehicle exports from the state will face significant delays because the sanctuary policies do not allow the government to verify the ownership of used vehicles being shipped abroad.
Those checks will now have to be done in person, said the DHS official with knowledge of the plans.
In December, New York state began issuing driver’s licenses and permits to applicants regardless of their legal status. Trump singled out New York for criticism during his State of the Union address, and his administration also has blasted California and other jurisdictions that have policies limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Another DHS official with knowledge of the deliberations said the department does not plan to take immediate steps against other states and cities. But Wolf’s letter indicates that the measures for New York were only part of an initial assessment of the impact of sanctuary policies on traveler programs, suggesting additional measures could follow.