- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2020

Homeland Security fired a stunning warning shot across the bow of sanctuary cities and states on Thursday, saying New York is being cut out of the department’s trusted traveler programs, meaning hundreds of thousands of residents will see longer lines at airports and border crossings.

The move was in response to New York’s new law that grants driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, and also bars Homeland Security from accessing state motor vehicle databases.

New York’s goal was to shield illegal immigrants, but federal officials said it means they can no longer verify the identities of citizens applying for the travel programs, so they’ll have to suspend new sign-ups from New York.

Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said that would kick about 175,000 people out of the program this year since they won’t be able to renew, and tens of thousands already in the queue for signing up right now will also be blocked.

He also warned other states pondering following New York’s lead in cutting off information-sharing with the department to think twice.

“Anything that threatens the safety of people anywhere in the country is of concern to the Department of Homeland Security,” he said.

The Trump administration has been engaged in an escalating war of wills with New York, where Democrats control the levers of power and have moved to cut off cooperation with immigration authorities and to promote the ability of illegal immigrants to live and work.

The law that took effect in December granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants was the latest flare-up.

Officials said cutting off access to databases is a real problem for a border state like New York, where Border Patrol agents often made vehicle stops but can no longer query the state’s records to see vehicle registration information or match driver’s licenses with the databases.

And since Homeland Security also runs customs, it means the department doesn’t have access to records to verify automobile information. That means it will take longer for those exporting vehicles from the state.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat, complained that the move was “political retribution.”

“There is no factual basis for this policy — its true design is to punish New York for embracing diversity and inclusion,” she said.

But Mr. Cuccinelli described the decision as more than retaliation. He said trusted traveler programs rely not only on verifying a person’s identity but also on making sure they are indeed worthy of the trust. That’s not possible if the department can’t see their records.

He said he was stunned that a state targeted in the 2001 terrorist attacks, which were blamed on lack of information sharing and the ease of getting driver’s licenses, would forget those lessons.

The programs affected are tied specifically to the state’s databases. Travel programs such as PreCheck are not affected.

“It doesn’t mean it can’t be in the future,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.

The travel industry reacted with horror, accusing the administration of hindering movement.

“Travel should not be politicized,” said Tory Emerson Barnes, an official with the U.S. Travel Association.

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