N.Y. Governor Decides He Won't Give One Federal Agency Information Owned by Another Federal Agency

By Dan Cadman on February 25, 2020

The state of New York has gotten itself into a pickle with enactment of its immigration-obstructionist "Green-Light law", which grants driver's licenses to illegal aliens, but then goes much further and prohibits state agencies from sharing any motor vehicle and license data with federal immigration agencies that are part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (See here and here.)

The high-fives had barely begun at the legislature and governor's mansion before county clerks and sheriff's offices began condemning the law as an invitation to fraud that potentially puts New Yorkers at risk by virtually guaranteeing that even criminals and public security risks would end up walking out of a state driver's license bureau with brand-new licenses or identification cards in hand. One county clerk went so far as to initiate a lawsuit to block implementation of the law.

The reasons for the deep concern over this myopic law are multiple and valid. Even the U.S. attorneys for the four federal districts in New York — Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western — piled on with a jointly authored op-ed simultaneously published in several New York newspapers decrying the adverse public safety effects the law would engender.

But none of that was the worst of it; after all, anyone can outlast a little bit of temporary bad press and public complaints. What happened next is when the balance shifted. Both the legislators and governor were shocked — shocked! — when for once in its lackluster existence, DHS showed some backbone and in turn declared that it would no longer issue or renew trusted traveler certifications for New Yorkers.

All of a sudden Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to play "let's make a deal" with DHS to put trusted traveler programs back on the table for the state's 20-plus million denizens. His most recent proposal is that the state will in fact provide department of motor vehicles data to immigration agencies — but stop short of giving them Social Security numbers. I'm a little puzzled by this offer. Is New York State an autocracy and Governor Cuomo the chief czar? How, exactly, does he get to pick and choose which part of a law that the legislature just passed, and that he signed into law, that he's going to honor? More likely, the reality is that he either has to shut up and enforce it in its entirety, or go back to the legislature and ask them to undo what should never have been done in the first place.

Cuomo is quoted as saying:

The Social Security numbers are the indicator of documented or undocumented, and I will never give them the Social Security numbers in the DMV database — over my dead body will I do that.

Huh. When exactly did the state of New York begin issuing Social Security numbers? Oh wait, they don't! So let me see if I have this straight: New York will refuse to give one part of the federal government official identifiers that have been issued by another part of the federal government, when the state happens to collect those numbers for its own purposes. How cockamamie is that?

It seems to me that the counter to Cuomo's offer is simple. First, DHS must hold strong; no bargaining of the sort that ends up benefiting one of its agencies over another, or that ends up with a partial victory of any kind — because such a victory would be Pyrrhic indeed, after all the tough administration talk about fighting sanctuaries with every weapon at its disposal.

Second, the Social Security Administration should promulgate a regulation on an expedited basis that prohibits state and local governments from denying provision of its information and identifiers to any department or agency of the federal government in the pursuit of its lawful duties. The penalties for violating the prohibition? Surely someone at SSA can come up with something creative, but, at the very least, it would provide the basis for New York's U.S. attorneys (as well as all other U.S. attorneys elsewhere) to file a lawsuit to have courts enjoin state or local governments from engaging in such obstruction.

Hello? Is anyone in Washington listening? Isn't it time that the federal government's actions to counter sanctuary policies became a fully coordinated interagency effort?