February 6, 2020 4:30 PM, EST

DHS Prohibits N.Y. Residents From Signing Up for Trusted Traveler Programs

DHS Wolf speaks after touring the El Paso, Texas, U.S.-Mexico border in November 2019. (Cedar Attanasio/Associated Press)

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The Department of Homeland Security said New York residents will be prevented from enrolling in certain Trusted Traveler Programs, including the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program geared toward commercial truck drivers.

Additionally acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in a letter Feb. 5 to New York State Department of Motor Vehicles officials that state residents will not be able to enroll, or re-enroll, in the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), NEXUS and Global Entry programs.

  • FAST, available at the Mexican and Canadian borders, allows commercial carriers hauling low-risk shipments expedited customs processing.
  • SENTRI allows expedited clearance for approved vehicles and pedestrians.
  • NEXUS smooths pedestrian and vehicle movement between the United States and Canada.
  • Global Entry offers reduced wait times for those entering the United States from international destinations.

The DHS decision follows enactment of New York’s Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, known as the Green Light law, in December. The law — which allows those age 16 or older to apply for a standard noncommercial driver’s license regardless of citizenship status — prevents New York’s DMV from sharing personal license and vehicle registration information with those federal agencies that primarily enforce immigration laws.

Trusted Traveler Programs

Commercial trucks make their way through the Canadian port of entry. (Cole Burston/Bloomberg News)

“Although DHS would prefer to continue our long-standing cooperative relationship with New York on a variety of these critical homeland security initiatives, this act and the corresponding lack of security cooperation from the New York DMV requires DHS to take immediate action to ensure DHS’ efforts to protect the homeland are not compromised,” Wolf’s letter read.

Trucking Association of New York President Kendra Hems said her group is trying to determine the impact the decision will have on the FAST program and truckers who do business across the border. She said that the state’s trade with Canada is “quite significant.”

Kendra Hems


“It looks like FAST is going to be our biggest concern,” Hems told Transport Topics.

Truck freight between the United States and Canada was $28.3 billion in November alone, according to the most recent data reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Jan. 28. That was down 1.6% from November 2018.

Bob Costello, chief economist for American Trucking Associations, said the decision’s impact on the trucking industry won’t appear overnight.

“We know for sure a couple of things: For truckers it’s going to impact those trying to get it for the first time,” Costello said. “We know it does not apply to the Transportation Worker Identification Credential card.”

What’s still being sorted out, he said, “is what happens to renewals of the FAST card.”

“While the immediate impact of this change is unclear, the longer it remains in place, the more the potential for issues at the border and our level of concern will increase," said Sean McNally, ATA spokesman. “Commercial clearance programs like FAST are designed to make border crossings more efficient, and disruption to that will change traffic patterns at ports of entry, which may increase delays and congestion at the border. If drivers are prevented or dissuaded from using FAST lanes it will create delays and force CBP to compensate in order to keep traffic moving.”

According to Wolf’s letter, 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.

“In short, this act will impede ICE’s objective of protecting the people of New York from menacing threats to national security and public safety,” Wolf wrote.

Bob Costello


Though other states have similar laws, unlike New York, those states don’t ban DMV from sharing records with DHS.

The letter also warned that exporting used vehicles titled and registered in New York will be slowed and may be costlier because the law hinders DHS efforts to validate documents used to establish vehicle ownership.

Wolf said these actions are the result of an initial assessment and that DHS will continue to review agency operations related to New York.

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The decision to end the Trusted Traveler Programs came shortly after President Donald Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on Jan. 29.

Marc Scribner, senior fellow at Washington think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, described DHS’ action as “retaliatory” toward New York but he expressed doubt that the decision would drastically affect the USMCA trade partners.

“As long as DHS is just making life miserable for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, I don’t think countries are likely to retaliate,” Scribner said. “But if DHS does plan to expand these recent actions to include international travelers currently enrolled in these Trusted Traveler Programs and they have agreements with these countries that participate, I would absolutely expect retaliation from those countries.”

Total transborder truck freight between the United States and its North American neighbors was $62.7 billion in November, down 4.1% from the same month the year before, DOT said.

Senior Reporter Eric Miller contributed to this article.

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