New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the White House on Thursday in the hope he could persuade President Trump to reverse a recent decision to boot New Yorkers from Global Entry and several other Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP), which allow travelers to avoid long lines at the U.S. border.
The leaders’ dispute centered on New York’s new “Green Light Law,” which lets unauthorized immigrants obtain state driver’s licenses and also bars federal immigration agents from accessing state motor vehicle records.
The Trump administration said that cutoff from state records threatened public safety and responded by blocking New Yorkers from enrolling in Global Entry and other “trusted traveler” programs. New York then sued over its expulsion.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told reporters that Cuomo and Trump held a “productive meeting.” He called the relationship between the state of New York and the federal government an important one but said it “has been made difficult by the unilateral actions of New York State regarding the sharing of critical security information with DHS.”
Wolf, who first announced the new travel rules on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” said in a tweet that discussions would continue to find a mutually agreeable solution.
“In New York alone, last year ICE arrested 149 child predators, identified or rescued 105 victims of exploitation and human trafficking, arrested 230 gang members, and seized 6,487 pounds of illegal narcotics, including fentanyl and opioids,” Wolf wrote to New York officials last week. “In the vast majority of these cases, ICE relied on New York DMV records to fulfill its mission.”
The “Green Light Law,” Wolf went on, “compromises CBP’s ability to confirm whether an individual applying for TTP membership meets program eligibility requirements.”
“This Act and the corresponding lack of security cooperation from the New York DMV requires DHS to take immediate action to ensure DHS’ s efforts to protect the Homeland are not compromised,” he said.
In a tweet before the meeting, Trump said Cuomo “must understand that National Security far exceeds politics.”
“New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harrassment, start cleaning itself up, and lowering taxes. Build relationships, but don’t bring Fredo!” Trump said, tacking on a insult referring to Cuomo’s brother, the CNN host Chris Cuomo.
The “Fredo” reference is a nod to “The Godfather” films, and a character in the film who ultimately betrays his brother. The reference was first made by a Trump supporter last summer in a viral video that saw the television journalist get irate with the man for the insult.
In the video, Cuomo says the term was meant as a derogatory term for his Italian heritage, similar to the “N-word” for African Americans. (“Punk-a** b*****s from the right call me Fredo,” Cuomo said in the video. “My name is Chris Cuomo. I’m an anchor on CNN. Fredo is from ‘The Godfather.’ He was a weak brother and they use it as an Italian aspersion.”)
Cuomo had said he’s willing to restore federal access to driving records on a limited basis.
But in a midday news conference, he pledged not to let federal immigration agents see lists of people who had applied for a new type of license that doesn’t require applicants to prove they are in the U.S. legally.
“If they think they’re going to extort New York into giving them a database of undocumented people, they’re wrong. I will never do that,” Cuomo said.
Meanwhile, an association of New York sheriffs on Thursday expressed “deep concern” about the “Green Light Law,” becoming the latest law enforcement group to oppose the legislation. In a letter to Cuomo and other state politicians, the New York State Sheriffs’ Association expressed its “opposition and deep concern.”
Cuomo in television appearances said he would only propose giving federal officials access to the state driving records of applicants to traveler programs, who already must submit to an in-person interview and a background check.
“There is no undocumented person who’s going for an in-person interview before the federal government,” Cuomo said on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.”
Department of Homeland Security Secretary officials reiterated that New York’s decision to cut off federal access to driving records was part of a pattern of the state hindering the work of immigration and border enforcement agents. They said the lack of access to driving records would make it harder to catch fugitives or to quickly confirm someone’s identity.
Trump and Cuomo have a long history that has turned decidedly nasty over the years. Last year, Trump lashed out on Twitter, accusing New York officials of harassing his New York businesses in search of “anything at all they can find to make me look as bad as possible.” He complained that his family was spending a fortune on lawyers.
Four months later, Trump declared that Florida would become his permanent residence after he leaves the White House, not New York, saying he had been “treated very badly by the political leaders of both the city and state.”
Cuomo replied: “Good riddance” and “He’s all yours, Florida.”
The two have clashed on Trump’s income tax cuts, which imposed a $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, hiking federal taxes for many homeowners in New York, and on New York’s ban on hydraulic fracturing. Trump says New York is missing out on a “goldmine” of energy revenue.
Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly, Adam Shaw, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re or email him at email@example.com.