Judge Slams Trump Officials for Blatant Misconduct in Global Entry Ban

A traveler with Global Entry or TSA PreCheck goes through security at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Sept. 26, 2020. (Courthouse News photo/Barbara Leonard)

MANHATTAN (CN) — A federal judge roasted the Trump administration on Tuesday for its now-abandoned attempt to kick New Yorkers out of a travel-screening program that includes Global Entry.

“By making a decision that may well have been pretextual, and was certainly arbitrary and capricious, defendants undermined the ‘core constitutional and democratic values’ underlying the APA,” U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman wrote, abbreviating the Administrative Procedure Act.

As the Supreme Court described it in the 1992 case Franklin v. Massachusetts, the APA “sets forth the procedures by which federal agencies are accountable to the public and their actions subject to review by the courts.”

Furman said the government violated that law’s tenets when it banned New Yorkers from participating in the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Programs for citizens wishing to expedite their processing by security officials at airports or other ports of entry.

“Making matters worse, when forced by plaintiffs to defend their decision in court, Defendants initially did so by repeating their misleading, if not false, representations, in some instances under oath,” the Obama-appointed judge wrote.

Even though the government has rescinded the exclusion, Furman said New York state and the other challengers are entitled to summary judgment to ensure that Homeland Security makes no attempt at reviving its effort. 

“Today’s decision will restore Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler Programs to New Yorkers and marks a major victory for travelers, workers, commerce, and our state’s economy,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Thursday afternoon, lauding the ruling.

Homeland Security announced the ban in February 2020, saying New Yorkers would no longer be eligible for Trusted Travelers consideration because the state had passed a Green Light law whereby drivers could apply for a license without having to prove they are in the U.S. legally.  

To protect undocumented immigrants who apply for the new licenses, the law says federal immigration agents must apply for a court order to obtain state Department of Motor Vehicles records. 

In addition to Global Entry — similar to the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program — Trusted Traveler Programs include SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection), NEXUS, and FAST (Free and Secure Trade). 

Homeland Security said New Yorkers would be ineligible to enroll in such programs or renew their membership.

New York’s attorney general called the move “political retribution for the state’s enactment of legislation that the federal government disfavors.” 

Homeland Security shelved its ban one day before the government’s opposition filings were due in the lawsuit, admitting in a surprising court filing that its decision “was premised on an erroneous foundation” and “is not legally supportable.” 

Judge Furman on Tuesday mulled possible penalties for “misleading, if not false, representations, in some instances under oath.”

He ordered both sides to parties to confer and submit a joint letter within a week addressing whether there is a need or basis for other remedies and, if there is disagreement on the issue, proposing a procedure to resolve it. 

Representatives for the Department of Justice declined to comment on the ruling Thursday. Representatives for the New York Civil Liberties Union did not respond to requests for comment.

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