The empire strikes back at the Empire State

The empire strikes back at the Empire State
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Being part of the Resistance is exhilarating in a self-righteous sort of way … until it’s not. That reckoning is starting to dawn on some New Yorkers, who in the last election went Full Resistance and elected a state legislature pledged to wage war on the Trump administration, even if it meant that public safety and common sense were sacrificed as collateral damage.

The feds sat by while the legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo enacted criminal justice “reforms” mandating that dangerous criminals were put back on the street with no bail; that those criminals were entitled to know who the witnesses were who might testify against them (so that they could intimidate them); and imposed discovery rules that required such a short timeline for evidence to be turned over to the defense that many cases are simply dropped. That was New York’s problem — at least it would be until one of the criminals released crossed state lines. (But why would they?)

Another blow struck by the Albany branch of the Resistance was enactment of the so-called Green Light law, which granted driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. New York was not the first state to offer this major accommodation to federal law violators. And frankly, given all the other perks and protections the state and New York City offer illegal aliens, it was about as surprising as the sun rising in the east.

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This time the feds are not sitting by idly. The Green Light law is not just a spiteful gesture aimed at the Trump administration; it is a potential threat to national security. The law gives illegal aliens driver’s licenses but it bars federal agencies from gaining access to information stored in the state’s DMV records. To be clear, the New York law goes well beyond ordinary sanctuary laws under which localities refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests to turn over criminal aliens in their custody. The Green Light law prevents ICE from accessing license plates and other data that might assist them in tracking down criminal aliens on their own. 

This time all New Yorkers — those who want to be part of the Resistance, and those who have been unwillingly conscripted — will pay a price. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it will bar New Yorkers from enrollment and re-enrollment in trusted travel programs such as Global Entry, and the Nexus program that many upstate residents use to facilitate easy travel back and forth across the Canadian border. 

In the New York legislature’s all-consuming desire to resist any federal immigration enforcement efforts, even those that target violent criminals, they willingly sacrifice the convenience and safety of citizens and legal residents — whether it is New Yorkers being forced to endure long delays at airports and border crossings, or a 92-year-old woman being brutalized and murdered by a violent criminal who was not turned over to ICE.

The question is, how long will ordinary New Yorkers be willing endure the inconveniences, the dangers to their communities, and the ever-mounting fiscal burdens? Evidence suggests that even long-suffering New Yorkers, who have scoffed at the idea of civilized life beyond the Hudson, have had enough and have decided to get the hell out of Dodge. Many more may be joining them soon, but as a parting gift, the Green Light law means a longer wait at the airport if they want to fly out.

Resistance leaders, however, remain defiant. “This is obviously political retaliation by the federal government and we’re going to review our legal options,” responded Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Gov. Cuomo.

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Azzopardi is likely right about the first part. There probably is some political payback for the overt efforts by New York officials to impede immigration enforcement. Payback or not, what DHS is doing is a sound, rational response to a state law that endangers national security. 

As for reviewing New York’s legal options: Good luck with that. Federal law, 8 U.S. Code § 1373 states clearly that a “federal, state, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, [federal immigration authorities] information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”

Resistance is never easy when the federal government holds all the cards. It is pointless when it becomes painfully obvious that the policies being resisted actually make sense.

Ira Mehlman is media director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).