DHS Blocks New Yorkers from Trusted Traveler Programs

State Driver’s License Law Creates National Security Concerns

By CIS on February 6, 2020

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf announced on Wednesday the termination of eligibility for enrollment and re-enrollment in Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) for residents of New York. It was important for the Department to act due to significant public safety, national security, and document integrity concerns stemming from the state’s new driver's license law. The Center for Immigration Studies highlighted these security problems in a November report, "New York Green-Light law Creates Serious and Unprecedented Hurdles for Immigration Enforcement".

A letter from DHS to New York officials outlines the restrictions, which apply to Global Entry, NEXUS, the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) program, and the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program. These programs provide expedited and preferential entry procedures to travelers who meet certain requirements. The restrictions will also impact those attempting to export New York vehicles. DHS officials estimated 40,000 vehicles will be impacted.

TPPs, which rely in large part on states to verify individual’s identities, can no longer trust the New York driver's license. New York's new "Green-Light" law, enacted in December, permits driver's licenses to be issued to illegal aliens and others lacking authenticatable identity documents. In addition, the law prohibits DHS immigration enforcement agencies from accessing motor vehicle and driver information.

CIS Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughan said:

New York's law is the most egregious in the nation, and it creates unacceptable security and safety risks to everyone, for the sole purpose of protecting those who are living here illegally. The Department cannot stand by and watch a state obstruct federal authority and create problems for everyone. It will be interesting to see if frequent travelers from New York are willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of illegal aliens. This is not necessarily the last word from DHS, so other states that are considering this should take note.

The "Green-Light" law undermines U.S. security in the following ways:

  • It relaxes the documentation standards for licenses, requiring the motor vehicle agency to accept unverifiable documents, including foreign-issued documents such as consular ID cards. This enables illegal aliens and/or others with nefarious intent with a method to obtain a legitimate, state-issued document for identification.
  • It prohibits ICE and CBP officers and agents from accessing information maintained by NYDMV. This prevents the Border Patrol, for example, from obtaining any routine information on NY-tagged vehicles entering the United States at any port of entry.
  • Ironically, DHS agencies will have more cooperation and information-sharing with Canada, a foreign nation, than the state of New York.