Cuccinelli: New York reintroduced ‘the main problem’ that allowed 9/11

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The number two official at the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that New York residents are losing access to Trusted Traveler Programs (TTPs) because the state’s driver license laws reintroduced “the main problem … that allowed 9/11 to happen.”

Ken Cuccinelli, the senior official performing the duties of acting secretary at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), pointed to New York’s Green Light Law, which empowers the Department of Motor Vehicles to refuse to share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“It was embarrassing to us in Virginia, that the majority of 9/11 terrorists used Virginia driver’s licenses to help accomplish their evil mission, and we set about to fix that. And we did fix that,” Cuccinelli said. 

“Here we have one of the other targets of 9/11, who are walking backwards, quite intentionally, in the other direction to bar the sharing of law-enforcement-relevant information like vehicle registration, matching driver’s licenses to identifications, and, critically, criminal records which are kept up to date, and DMV databases,” he added in a call with reporters.

Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf announced Wednesday the department would no longer grant access to TTPs to New York residents because of the state law.

Restricted TTPs include Global Entry, which allows travelers returning from abroad to skip passport check lines; NEXUS, a program to more quickly cross the U.S.-Canada border; Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), a similar program to NEXUS that speeds up transit on both the Mexican and Canadian borders; and the Free and Secure Trade program for truck drivers shipping commercial products across the Canadian or Mexican borders.

New York residents who are currently enrolled in any of those programs will keep their benefits, but will not be allowed to renew them when they expire.

Cuccinelli said nearly 80,000 New Yorkers currently in processing for TTPs will be denied the permits, and thousands more will lose benefits over the next year.

“You’ll see about roughly 175,000 more New Yorkers won’t be able to renew their Trusted Traveler Programs this year, and I mentioned the almost 80,000 who are going to be immediately denied access to the Trusted Traveler Programs,” he said.

Cuccinelli also said vehicle exports from New York will be slowed down as part of the administration’s reprisal against the Green Light Law.

“Because of the blockage by New York, they are introducing for themselves — and I’m sure they didn’t think about this — the consequence of much slower sales of their own vehicles. Those are checks that used to take place nearly automatically [and] will now require paperwork. The good old fashioned way. And there’s a reason we call it the old fashioned way,” said Cuccinelli.

The administration’s announcement came a day after President Trump singled out New York and California as sanctuary jurisdictions in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

New York’s Green Light Law allows immigrants without legal status to apply for and receive driver’s licenses, provided they produce a combination of documents to prove name, date of birth and New York residency.

Some states with large populations of such immigrants have adopted similar laws, in part to reduce the number of unlicensed drivers on the road and to increase insurance coverage.

Democrats criticized the DHS’s actions as political retribution against measures that counteract the administration’s immigration policies.

“The Trump Administration’s ban on all New Yorkers applying for Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler programs is a purely punitive move that has nothing to do with security.  It is clearly a blatant attempt by the White House to score political points and perpetuate a partisan fight with New York elected officials,” said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) in a statement.

Thompson added that a driver’s license is not required to apply for the programs in question.

“To be clear, applicants already submit their passport, proof of residence, and fingerprints – and submit to a background check and interview. A driver’s license is not even required to apply,” he said.

But Cuccinelli said a passport would not be enough for New York residents to apply for the programs, because the state’s DMV will continue barring access to its criminal databases.

“No, a passport is not an adequate way to get into any of our Trusted Traveler Programs. The problem isn’t so much the document itself, it’s the barring of access by the New York Department of Motor Vehicles to our ability to see, for instance, do you have a fugitive warrant, what’s your criminal record? … We cannot see those things on with New York barring it, so the passport will get you over the border, but it will not get you entry into any of our Trusted Traveler Programs,” said Cuccinelli.

New York Republicans lauded the move, echoing the connection to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“This is yet another result of one-party extremist in Albany control hurting New Yorkers, and we warned of this impending outcome two weeks ago. As someone who lived through 9/11, I am astonished how Governor Cuomo could disregard the words of the 9/11 Commission where they noted ‘For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons,'” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) in a statement.

Tags Bennie Thompson Chad Wolf Department of Homeland Security Donald Trump Tom Reed Trusted Traveler Programs TTPs
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