Trump lets New Yorkers back into federal travelers program

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Trump administration said Thursday that New Yorkers would once again be allowed to enroll and re-enroll in Global Entry and other federal travel programs after the state government earlier this year allowed limited access to motor vehicle records.

The Department of Homeland Security announced it had lifted a ban that dates back to February, when President Donald Trump's administration booted state residents from the programs that allow vetted travelers to avoid long security lines at airports and the U.S. border.

The administration cited a still-existing state law that lets immigrants in the country without legal authorization obtain state driver’s licenses and limits federal access to state records.

The Legislature in April amended the provision, and the Trump administration can now access driving records of individuals who are applying for the trusted travelers program, which is only available to legal residents.

The announcement comes at a time when international travel has been severely curtailed because of the pandemic, and a number of countries have barred U.S. travelers because of the high number of cases in the country.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who met with Trump at the White House to try to allow New Yorkers to rejoin the program and restart the importation and exportation of vehicles, said the fix protected New Yorkers' privacy while addressing federal concerns.

“I am glad that this issue has finally been resolved for all New Yorkers,” he said.

State Attorney General Letitia James, who had filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the ban, said the removal of the ban was “a victory for travelers, workers, commerce, and our state’s economy.”

Attorneys representing DHS dropped the agency's efforts to dismiss the lawsuit in federal court Thursday, and acknowledged DHS officials had provided “inaccurate or misleading statements” about New York's program in their effort to bar New Yorkers.

Agency officials failed to acknowledge other states have terminated federal access to certain driving records, for example.

“Nevertheless, CBP has continued to accept, vet, and, where appropriate, approve TTP applications from these states and territories,” reads the filing by U.S. attorneys for the Southern District of New York, in reference to DHS's Customs and Border Protection agency and the federal Trusted Travelers Program.

DHS officials also claimed that New York's amended law is still “antithetical” to the agency's mission and data access policies. But the agency's attorneys said that DHS acknowledged last Friday that California has blocked federal agents from using non-criminal history information to enforce immigration laws under an agreement that wasn't vetted by top DHS officials.

Still, the DHS statement Thursday suggests the Trump administration maintains it has issues with New York's policy.

“Nonetheless, local New York law continues to maintain provisions that undermine the security of the American people and purport to criminalize information sharing between law enforcement entities,” Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said.

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