By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state sued President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday to void a policy barring hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers from federal programs that help travelers speed through airport security lines and borders, calling the ban political punishment.
The administration’s action last week came in response to New York’s passage last June of a so-called Green Light law allowing illegal immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses and limiting federal immigration authorities from accessing records from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
State officials called the ban a “punitive measure intended to coerce New York into changing its policies,” violating the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and equal sovereignty among states and its prohibition on federal coercion.
The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court marked the latest front in political fighting between Democratic-controlled New York and Trump, a Republican born and raised in the state.
“President Trump and his enablers are once again taking their aim at New York’s economy in a way that not only inconveniences travelers, but also creates very real security issues,” Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
A U.S. Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
The Department of Homeland Security policy prohibits New Yorkers from joining or renewing their participation in so-called Trusted Traveler programs. These include Global Entry and three others – FAST, NEXUS AND SENTRI – allowing quicker passage between the United States and either Canada or Mexico.
New York said the policy would prohibit 175,000 New Yorkers whose membership in the programs expires this year from re-enrolling, and would “cut off” 80,000 New Yorkers with pending applications.
The state also said the ban “will make all travelers less safe” by diverting Customs and Border Protection officers’ focus from higher-risk travelers, and would cost its economy millions of dollars.
“Congested lines at New York’s airports and border crossings will strain resources at the border and undermine safety for all travelers,” the lawsuit said.
“New York’s economy will suffer as wait times at border crossings increases, employers doing global business are placed at a competitive disadvantage, and residents who rely on cross-border travel lose access to these programs,” it added.
Trump has made tougher immigration policies a centerpiece of his presidency and re-election campaign. He faults New York and other places he deems “sanctuary jurisdictions” for limiting information-sharing between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.
Fifteen states – including conservative Utah – and the District of Columbia have Green Light laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf called New York the only state to shut off access to Department of Motor Vehicles records by Customs and Border Protection officers.
“Without access, CBP cannot vet Trusted Traveler applicants,” Wolf wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “It’s that simple.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Franklin Paul and Will Dunham)