The U.S. Attorney for the Western District joined federal prosecutors from three other New York regions Monday in criticizing the portion of the state’s “Green Light Law” that prevents the Department of Motor Vehicles from sharing information with immigration enforcement agencies.
James P. Kennedy Jr. and three of his colleagues issued a joint statement criticizing the provision of the controversial law, which allows undocumented immigrants to receive state driver’s licenses, while suggesting withholding DMV information has a “much broader adverse effect on law enforcement and public safety.”
In addition to Kennedy, who was appointed to his post in November 2017, the statement was endorsed by Southern District U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, Eastern District U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue and U.S. Attorney Grant Jaquith.
“The disturbing truth is that under the newly enacted statute, the Customs and Border Protection Officers working today at New York’s 13 ports of entry ... are unable even to check the registration or the driver’s license status of individuals presenting themselves for admission into our country,” the federal prosecutors said in their statement.
The four U.S. attorneys noted the state’s ports of entry include both the busiest port on the entire northern border of the United States and the busiest international air passenger gateway into North America.
The criticism comes in the wake of an announcement by the Department of Homeland Security about a prohibition that will bar New Yorkers from participating in the Trusted Traveler Program, which includes NEXUS and other pre-approved traveler programs that allow people to use expedited lanes at airports and international borders.
Under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ban, New Yorkers will no longer be eligible to apply for or renew membership in U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Programs.
New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit Monday against the Trump administration over the ban. The suit argues that the policy change is arbitrary and poses a threat to New Yorkers’ safety and the state’s economy, directly harms hundreds of thousands of individual residents and interferes with New York’s rights as a sovereign state.
“We will not compromise our values nor back down when the federal government continues to unfairly and illegally target New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. “There are more than a dozen states — including red states — with similar laws, but President Trump and his enablers are once again taking their aim at New York’s economy in a way that not only inconveniences travelers, but also creates very real security issues.”
Kennedy and his three colleagues argued that the provision of Green Light that bars the sharing of information impedes the DHS’s ability to conduct active criminal investigations involving citizens and non-citizens who are lawfully present in the United States, not just those who are undocumented.
They noted that on a daily basis Homeland Security agents and officers use DMV information to assist them in stopping criminal activity, including offenses involving drug trafficking and money laundering.
They said officers and Homeland Security agents frequently use DMV information to check identification and vehicle registration information, identify fugitives, conduct surveillance establish probable cause as needed to secure search and arrest warrants and make decisions about when and where to initiate motor vehicle stops.
In their statement, the U.S. attorneys argued that lack of access to DMV information “poses a grave risk” to the safety of officers and agents who must now “blindly interact” with people who may be “terrorists or other violent criminals, drug dealers, human traffickers, or child predators.”
The prohibition on information sharing, they argued, would allow more criminals to “enter and roam freely” in New York and the U.S.
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed waded into the fray last week, calling the Green Light Law dangerous.
”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.’”
For his part, Cuomo even suggested late last week that Reed and a GOP colleague from Long Island took part in goading DHS into the ban on New Yorkers from the Trusted Traveler Program, a charge Reed denied.
Reed was among New York’s six Republican House members who sent a letter in September to the U.S. Justice Department asking for a review of the Green Light Law. The House members asked Attorney General William Barr to determine if the law violates the Constitution.
Reed has been more vocal in recent months on statewide issues — and in early January he did not discount the possibility that he might run for governor.