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New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated a willingness to provide information to the federal government on individuals enrolling or renewing their applications for Trusted Traveler Programs, but remains adamant in his refusal to provide state Department of Motor Vehicles database information.
That’s because the DMV data can be used for purposes detrimental to immigrants.
“We can provide Trusted Travel information. We can provide the automobile export industry information,” Cuomo said in a statement Feb. 21. “What they really want and what we can’t provide is use of the DMV data for immigration purposes. Period. Their extortion and bullying will not work in New York.”
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Cuomo made the statement in response to an ongoing controversy dating to a decision announced Feb. 5 by the Department of Homeland Security to prevent New York residents from enrolling in certain Trusted Traveler Programs, including the Free and Secure Trade, or FAST, program geared toward commercial truck drivers.
At press time, the New York governor’s office had not responded to requests for further comment on Cuomo’s statement.
New York is an immigrant sanctuary state, and state officials have accused the Trump administration of singling out one state for coercion and retribution “as a means to compel conformity with preferred federal policies.”
According to DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has relied on New York’s DMV records to enforce customs and immigration laws while Immigration and Customs Enforcement has used the records to combat gang activity, narcotics smuggling, human trafficking and identity theft.
Although trucking officials say that so far, there have been few or no repercussions for truckers making border crossings, the longer the dispute continues, the more likely congestion will become a problem at the U.S. northern border with Canada.
Truck freight moved between the United States and Canada was $25.7 billion (or 51.8% of all northern border freight) in December, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported Feb. 25.
About 175,000 New Yorkers enrolled in the Trusted Traveler programs have memberships expiring this year, which could make them unable to re-enroll if the dispute remains unresolved, according to a federal lawsuit filed Feb. 10 by the state against Chad Wolf, acting Homeland Security Secretary.
There are almost 30,000 commercial truck drivers enrolled in the FAST program at four New York-Canada ports of entry, the lawsuit said.
“It sounds like there seems to be a willingness for background checks reviewed for trusted travelers that the state would make an exception to the Green Light law and release that information,” Kendra Hems, president of Trucking Association of New York, told Transport Topics. “But I would say the details at this point on whether or not they’re [DHS] even going to accept that, we don’t know.”
The state’s so-called Green Light law, which took effect Dec. 14, allows New Yorkers age 16 or older to apply for a standard noncommercial driver’s license regardless of citizenship status and prevents New York’s DMV from sharing personal license and vehicle registration information with those federal agencies that primarily enforce immigration laws.
Hems said trucking officials have not been expecting the dispute to have an immediate impact on motor carriers. “But obviously we have concern for those that are hiring any new drivers that need to go through the process,” Hems said. “But at this point, we haven’t heard of any significant challenges or delays that have been created. Our concern has been if they can’t get this resolved in short order, then obviously going through FAST as well as NEXUS unable to obtain or renew those credentials, we will start seeing delays at the border.”
But Hems added, “I’m hopeful that given some of the pressures associated with FAST and NEXUS, they’ll come to some sort of agreement or compromise. But I don’t have any time frame as to what to expect.”
NEXUS is a program that smooths pedestrian and vehicle movement between the United States and Canada.
“It is my understanding that New York is trying to figure out what they can give the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection so that their citizens can get into the Trusted Traveler Programs,” said Bob Costello, chief economist for American Trucking Associations. “Other states are sanctuary states and remain in the program, so we are hopeful this can get done. So far, I’m not hearing of a large impact, but the longer the impasse goes on, the more likely we will see an impact as renewals for FAST come up.”
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