New Yorkers lose travel passes in immigration row

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The Trump administration has suspended enrolment in expedited travel security programmes in New York in a row over federal immigration enforcement.

Officials cited the state’s new law that bars US immigration and border agencies from accessing driver’s licence information.

The law, enacted last June, was designed to allow undocumented residents to obtain driving privileges.

But US officials said it means trusted travel applicants cannot be vetted.

Under the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) new policy, New York residents will not be able to apply for or re-enrol in Global Entry, Nexus, Sentri and Fast trusted traveller programmes.

These schemes allow vetted travellers to use expedited security lanes at airports and other US border crossings.

Applicants must submit identification documents, attend an in-person interview, provide fingerprints and undergo “a rigorous background check”.

New York is one of 13 states – including California, Illinois and Nevada – that allow undocumented migrants to obtain a driver’s licence provided they show evidence that they reside in the state and pass a driving test.

New York’s “Green Light” act also forbids the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from sharing information with agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) without a warrant.

On Wednesday, DHS acting secretary Chad Wolf wrote in a letter to the state that this law meant it was no longer possible to ensure New Yorkers met trusted traveller requirements.

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Trusted traveller programmes allow “low-risk” residents access to expedited security and customs lanes

“Although DHS would prefer to continue our longstanding co-operative relationship with New York on a variety of these critical homeland security initiatives, this act and the corresponding lack of security co-operation… requires DHS to take immediate action to ensure DHS’s efforts to protect the homeland are not compromised.”

The DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the BBC.

Rich Azzopardi, an adviser to New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, told US media: “This is obviously political retaliation by the federal government and we’re going to review our legal options.”

The travel programme suspension follows the president again criticising so-called sanctuary cities, which have policies to aid undocumented immigrants, in his annual address to Congress on Tuesday.

Mr Trump specifically lashed out at New York’s laws in his State of the Union speech, blaming the state’s sanctuary policies for the murder of an elderly woman by an immigrant.

While police departments hold data such as fingerprints and DNA that are taken from criminal suspects, the DMV holds a far larger database of information on residents.

Last July, it was revealed that immigration officers used facial recognition technology to search drivers’ licences in states that issue licences to undocumented immigrants.

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