CORNING — Congressman Tom Reed might not like New York’s new Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, but he denies he’s behind the decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to suspend Trusted Travel programs in New York.
It’s estimated that about 175,000 New York residents will lose Trusted Traveler access in 2020.
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Reed, R-23 o f Corning, said his position on the law is well known, but he denied his concerns led to the Justice Department’s decision. New York state officials filed a lawsuit earlier this week challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to block New York residents from programs that allow travelers to avoid long security lines at airports and borders and that it was done as punishment for the state enacting the Green Light Law.
Reed said 15 states have enacted similar laws, but that “New York went even further than states like California” by restricting access to Department of Motor Vehicles records with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol authorities.
“We are the only state in the union out there restricting information to our customs and border agents,” he said.
It’s for that reason, Reed asserted, that Homeland Security made the decision, not political retribution.
“That is why the New York action was taken,” Reed said. “That is why it is only New York.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested it was Reed, who is pondering a run for governor in 2022, and fellow New York Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin who are behind Homeland’s decision.
Reed said with all due sarcasm that he “appreciated the recognition and (supposed) power,” but denied his contacts with Homeland Security over the law, as well as President Trump, influenced the agency’s decision.
Reed noted that he sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr last September outlining his concerns with the Green Light Law, including its legality.
“We raised the security concerns that this (law) was causing,” he said. “They (Homeland) took a review of these laws and New York laws in particular.”
Reed said he will do what he can “to find a solution to this,” but that the solution lies with Cuomo.
He suggested repealing the portion of the law that prohibits DMV from sharing information with immigration officials.
“What I am hearing from the governor is that he wants to play politics with this,” he said. “The only solution is to repeal the Green Light law. That’s something I would like to see Albany do.”
Reed said it’s the state’s “hard left and extremists that put New Yorkers and the country at risk.”
Acting Homeland Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli tweeted this week that Cuomo “wants to blame everyone else but himself for the consequences of the bill he signed making NY & US more dangerous by blocking federal law enforcement from NY DMV information — some of the most basic elements to keep law enforcement safe and able to do their jobs.”
Cuomo is scheduled to meet with President Trump Thursday to discuss the matter, and he’s planning to offer DMV records only for those applying for the Trusted Traveler Program.
“I will never give them access to the DMV database, but, for the TTP enrollees on a case-by-case basis, that’s different,” he told Northeast Public Radio. “And it is calling their bluff because if they don’t accept this then ... they’re just playing politics.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Cuomo’s office issued the following statement:
“This past Monday the Department of Justice announced various actions against different states which allow undocumented drivers. Later that day the news organization BuzzFeed printed a memo from DHS listing different ways to ‘punish’ states that allowed undocumented drivers. The governor believes that, as the TTP program is administered by DHS with in-person interviews and an exhaustive federal background check process, the state’s database is irrelevant and DHS’s request is unnecessary. In any event, DHS stated governmental needs can be met by the state which can provide DMV data for TTP enrollee cases. With all logical governmental rationales extinguished, the TTP blockage is clearly politically motivated, an abuse of government power, and illegal.”