Feds Rescind Traveler-Program Ban Against New York Over False Statements

Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary Chad Wolf speaks during a 2019 meeting at the White House. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(CN) — New Yorkers will again be allowed to enroll in expedited traveler programs after government lawyers admitted Thursday to making false statements to defend the Trump administration’s attempted ban against them.

In a surprising court filing, the government admitted that inaccuracies “undermine a central argument” in defending their action against a federal lawsuit brought by the state and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The Trusted Traveler programs, headed by the Department of Homeland Security, act as an express lane for those that want to bypass security lines at U.S. borders. DHS banned New Yorkers from the programs in February after state lawmakers passed a law in December that barred the sharing of information of undocumented immigrants with federal law enforcement.

Known as the Green Light Law, it allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. The state filed a federal complaint against the Trump administration shortly after the ban was announced. The New York Legislature amended the law in April, allowing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to view driving records of those who apply to the federal programs.

Lawyers for the government admitted that 13 other states and the District of Columbia had similar laws, but were not targeted by the ban. They apologized to U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman from the Southern District of New York in Thursday’s court filing.

“Defendants deeply regret the foregoing inaccurate or misleading statements and apologize to the Court and plaintiffs for the need to make these corrections at this late stage in the litigation,” wrote Audrey Strauss, the acting United States attorney.

“We appreciate the information sharing to CBP for the trusted travel program, which enables DHS to move forward and begin once again processing New York residents,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a press release.

While lifting the ban, Wolf also reproached state leaders for refusing to accede to all of the Trump administration’s demands to share information on immigrants.

“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,” he said.

Wolf did not mention the court filing in his statement.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Thursday he had met with President Donald Trump shortly after the ban was announced in an effort to have it rescinded. He said he discussed what “needed to be done to address the issue while still protecting the privacy of all New Yorkers.”

Attorney General Letitia James took a more aggressive stance against the Trump administration, calling it “a victory for travelers, workers, commerce, and our state’s economy.”

“We will continue to defend New York’s right to pass its own laws and will fight to protect our state’s residents anytime they are bullied by the president because safety and fairness are not mutually exclusive under the law.”

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