MANHATTAN (CN) — New York state brought a federal complaint Monday challenging President Donald Trump’s move to freeze New Yorkers out of the “trusted traveler” run by Homeland Security meant to speed U.S. re-entry after a visit abroad.
“It’s an abuse of power. It’s extortion,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference on Friday after news of the swipe broke. “It is hurting New Yorkers to advance their political agenda. And we’re going to fight back.”
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli announced the move in response to a new state law that he says hurts public safety by interfering in how federal agents confirm someone’s identification or check for fugitive warrants.
New York’s “Green Light” law, which took effect in December, allows residents to apply for driver’s licenses without having to prove they are in the U.S. legally. To protect these immigrants who apply for the new licenses, the law requires a court order for federal immigration agents to obtain records from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
The Department of Homeland Security retaliated late Thursday with an announcement that it would no longer allow New Yorkers to enroll, or renew their membership in, certain programs like Global Entry that make it easier for international travelers to get through border security.
The Department of Homeland Security’s expulsion of New Yorkers is expected to affect at least 175,000 residents now enrolled in the travel programs who will be kicked out as their permits expire.
The change would also impact thousands of commercial truck drivers enrolled in the Free And Secure Trade (FAST) program, which streamlines their crossings at the U.S. border with Canada.
In the 30-page complaint, filed in the state’s Southern District, New York Attorney General Letitia James argues that the Trump administration’s action is arbitrary and has violated New York’s sovereign immunity and the equal rights and privileges of all New Yorkers.
Represented by chief counsel Matthew Colangelo, the state seeks an injunction against the Homeland Security ban, which it calls unconstitutional. New York alleges violations of the Fifth and 10th Amendments, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act.
At a Monday press conference announcing the suit, James cited inflammatory rhetoric from Trump’s recent State of the Union and comments from Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf to back up her claim that the new ban is nothing more than a political attack against sanctuary states and cities.
Invoking hostility toward sanctuary cities in his televised State of the Union address last week, Trump said: “In sanctuary cities, local officials order police to release dangerous criminal aliens to prey upon the public instead of handing them over to ICE to be safely removed.”
Wolf in turn released a statement signaling the agency’s plans. “Tonight, President Trump sent a strong message to these leaders who play politics with public safety: If you will not protect your people, we will,” Wolf wrote. “DHS will soon announce measures to counter dangerous state and local laws that prohibit coordination with DHS law enforcement officers.”
Attorney General James called the government’s purported criminal-justice motives for the ban to be nothing than a transparent veil for political retribution.
“The reality is that if in fact they were really interested in removing quote-unquote dangerous criminals, they have access to databases through third parties, including but not limited to the FBI and the Department of Criminal Justice Services,” James said Monday.
“If this was really about public safety, it’s nothing more than a lark, it’s a pretext because they have access to that information,” James said.
“This is nothing more than an attempt to retaliate against New York state and continue to feed red meat to President Trump’s political base,” she added.
James had been similarly blunt in a statement Friday that touted New York’s resistance to White House policies that she called “xenophobic.”
“This new policy will negatively impact travelers, workers, commerce, and our economy, so we will fight the president’s shortsighted crusade against his former home,” James said Friday. “We will not allow New Yorkers to be targeted or bullied by an authoritarian thug.”
New Yorkers’ enrollment in Pre-Check, a program run by the Transportation Security Agency, does not appear to be affected by the Homeland Security ban, James reassured travelers in her statement Friday.
A representative for the TSA confirmed Monday that travelers from New York who have “Known Traveler Numbers” from trusted traveler programs will continue to be able to use that number to receive TSA PreCheck benefits.
“Existing Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS enrolled members who are currently eligible for TSA PreCheck through these programs will remain eligible for TSA PreCheck screening until their CBP Trusted Traveler membership expires,” the representative said. “Once or before their membership in these programs expires they can apply for TSA PreCheck.”
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in December advanced a lawsuit James brought over the increasing civil immigration arrests that federal immigration agents are conducting at state courthouses.