Travelers From New York Allowed Into Trusted Traveler Programs Again

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New Yorkers can once again register for Trusted Traveler Programs.

However, registrants should note that, due to COVID-19, Trusted Traveler Enrollment Centers are closed until at least September 8, 2020.

In early February 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prohibited New Yorkers from registering or re-registering for Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, SENTI, NEXUS, and FAST (Free and Secure Trade). New Yorkers were singled out for this treatment because New York’s Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, also known as the “Green Light Law,” gave undocumented residents the right to apply for driver’s licenses and prevented the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from releasing their database information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) absent a court order. At that time, the New York Attorney General sued DHS over New Yorkers’ exclusion from the Trusted Traveler Programs.

In court, the government argued that New York’s Green Light Law prevented CBP from accessing records they needed to vet applicants for Trusted Traveler Programs. In April 2020, New York amended the Green Light Law to allow the DMV to share records “as necessary for an individual seeking acceptance into a trusted traveler program, or to facilitate vehicle imports and/or exports.” Notably, the case revealed that other states had similar laws to New York’s Green Light Law, that DHS was able to vet program applicants in those states, and that none of those states were “punished” with exclusion from the programs. As a result, the government asked to withdraw their motions for summary judgment and to dismiss, and DHS lifted the suspension on New Yorkers.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated he was “glad that this issue has finally been resolved for all New Yorkers.” But, in a press release, Acting Secretary of the DHS Chad Wolf said he appreciated the information sharing regarding the Trusted Traveler Programs, but chastised New York for continuing to block federal access to DMV records, which he believes “creates a significant threat to both public safety and officer safety.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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