The Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday evening it would immediately prohibit New York residents from enrolling and re-enrolling in a Trusted Traveler Program (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST). This action comes in response to the Green Light Law’s privacy protections, which DHS said prevents it from accessing New York State Department of Motor Vehicles records. DHS noted the law compromises Customs and Border Patrol’s ability to confirm whether an individual applying for Trusted Traveler Program membership meets program eligibility requirements.
“From day one, I have objected to the constitutionality of the Green Light Law, specifically those provisions, which are contrary to the federal government’s exclusive jurisdiction over immigration policy and prevent law enforcement officials from fulfilling their duties,” Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns said. “As a border community, Western New York now bears the burden of Albany catering to downstate ideology rather than the security interests of our community. I am calling on our local delegation to think of their constituents when they are in Albany and reconsider the Green Light Law.”
Visit Buffalo Niagara’s most recent research indicates Canadians make more than 3 million border trips to Western New York each year, contributing in excess of $900 million to the local economy. Kearns predicted increased wait times at international bridges will discourage this economic activity. He said businesses in Western New York, which specialize in exporting vehicles to Canada, will be hampered by significant delays and greater costs due to the inability of DHS to verify vehicle ownership form DMV records.
“Although this action will likely have an adverse impact upon economy and convenience of Western New York, it is a practical effort to secure our borders,” Kearns said. “It is my sincere hope that the federal government and the state of New York will work together to amicably resolve these concerns. As the proverb goes, ‘When elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.’ ”
Conversely, Congressman Brian Higgins stated, “White House actions against New York and Western New York Trusted Travelers are punitive and unacceptable. We are already receiving calls from Western New York residents in the final stages of Trusted Traveler enrollment who are being turned away today, and others confused as a result of this hasty, heavy handed and ill-conceived decision.
“Over 16.8 million truck and passenger vehicle crossings occurred on New York bridges in 2018, including more than 11.79 million right here on Western New York’s four northern border bridges. This policy deals a devastating blow to the New York and United States economy, threatens the future viability of Western New York’s commerce, auto manufacturing, health care and cultural economies that are highly dependent of predictable and efficient access to and from Southern Ontario. Make no mistake: The White House actions will directly and indirectly hurt all of us.
“There is no reason why law-abiding Americans and northern border commerce should be collateral damage in this policy dispute. We are calling on the state and federal governments to negotiate in good faith to allow for a return to reliable border operations.”