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‘They got caught’: DHS drops Trusted Traveler Program lawsuit against New York, Cuomo says

(Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is dropping its Trusted Traveler Program lawsuit against New York, Governor Cuomo announced Friday.

In June 2019, Cuomo signed New York’s “Green Light Law” into law, giving undocumented residents to obtain Empire State driver’s licenses. In February 2020, The DHS announced its intention to ban New York from participating in the Trusted Traveler’s Program, which allowed pre-approved travelers into the United States using expedited lanes at airports and international borders.

In President Trump’s State of the Union Address on Feb. 4, 2020, Trump stated that New York’s sanctuary policies were getting in the way of ICE doing their job, with Acting Secretary of DHS Chad Wolf saying that New York’s Green Light Law compromises Customs & Border Control’s ability to do their job later that same day, causing them to cancel the Trusted Traveler Program in New York. On Feb. 7, Governor Cuomo stated his intentions to sue DHS over the decision, saying that over a dozen states in the nation (and the District of Columbia) have similar Green Light Laws and could still participate in the Trusted Traveler Program.

DHS announced on July 23 that they were dropping their opposition to the lawsuit, with the Department of Justice later stating that information had come to light saying that the DHS’s position had information that was false. Cuomo stated that the DHS came to a “startling revelation” that other states in the nation, including some Republican states, had their own Green Light Laws.

“It is impossible that the Department of Homeland Security just figured that out yesterday afternoon. It’s impossible because I have said it 480 times,” said Cuomo. “Everybody knew there were other states with Green Light Laws. It has been written about in a number of papers. What happened yesterday is that they got caught.”

The DHS stated that they were targeting New York because the state wasn’t handing over DMV information about the immigrants who applied for the program. On Feb. 12, Cuomo said that he would pass a law giving DHS access to the DMV applicants who apply for the Trusted Traveler Program in New York, meeting with DHS the following day in April. The law was added to the New York State budget that April.

“You know what has happened since April? Nothing. They have done absolutely nothing since April,” said Cuomo. “It has been six months since they started this political exploitation of New York. It’s been six months since they clearly had no basis whatsoever to do this. What they said yesterday in dropping the lawsuit was, ‘Huh, there are other states that have Green Light Laws.’ We knew that and I’ve said that. You just saw that yesterday? Is that plausible?”

Cuomo stated that he believes that Acting Secretary Wolf and Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli betrayed their oath and could face criminal and civil action against them for the false information in the lawsuit. Cuomo called on Attorney General William Barr to open an investigation into the situation, as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Jerry Nadler and Rep. Bennie Thompson to launch a congressional investigation.

“It was all politics all the time. It was all exploitation all the time,” Cuomo said. “And they hurt this state because of it. You cannot use government for political exploitation. Newsflash: it’s called government, you can’t play politics with government. You can’t use the Department of Justice as a political tool. You can’t use the Department of Homeland Security as a political tool. And it’s not just not right, or not ethical and immoral, it’s illegal.”

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