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Cuomo, DHS officials spar over traveler program, New York’s noncompliance with immigration efforts

Passengers stand in line Jan. 7, 2019, as they wait to pass through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at LaGuardia airport in New York.

(The Center Square) – A day after the Department of Homeland Security re-enrolled New York into the Trusted Traveler Program, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday blasted DHS officials for kicking the state out of a program meant to expedite people through ports of entry.

The decision to let the state back into the program came on the same day a U.S. Attorney sent a letter to the judge presiding over a case in federal district court in New York admitting the agency made “inaccurate or misleading statements” about the state.

DHS kicked New York out of the program back in February, citing a state “Green Light Law” that did not give authorities in Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement access to department of motor vehicle records that they said they needed to identify terrorists and other criminals. At the time, federal officials said New York was the only state to have such a law.

However, Cuomo said 15 other states had a similar law but did not get the same treatment. Still, in April, the state amended its law, saying it would provide information to the federal government for anyone who applied to enroll in the program.

Cuomo said the decision meant New York’s airports were packed with people who had to wait and be cleared during the peak of the state’s COVID-19 crisis. In particular, he called out acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli for their role in the matter.

“I believe Mr. Wolf and Mr. Cuccinelli have possible criminal liability,” Cuomo said. “I believe there is civil liability. It was a clear abuse of government power for political purposes.”

He added that the state is considering a lawsuit for the damages the ban had on the state’s economy. Besides the airports, commercial truckers at border crossings were also affected by the maneuver.

It also may have added to the impact the coronavirus had on the state, which has recorded more deaths than any other state in the country.

The governor also called on Congress to investigate as well as U.S. Attorney General William Barr. However, Cuomo was critical of Barr as well.

“I don’t know that Mr. Barr’s going to go down in the book of the most distinguished attorneys general of the United States, but if you wanted to have a modicum of credibility, you know that this agency played politics,” Cuomo said. “You know that they lied. They’ve admitted that they lied. Can you allow this blatant, egregious misconduct to go uninvestigated? No. If you can do what he’s done at the Department of Justice, I guess you can let anything go. But this is really egregious.”

In a statement Thursday, DHS acknowledged New York took steps allowing it to lift the ban. However, Wolf added that the state’s law still undermines CBP and ICE efforts.

“Local New York law continues to maintain provisions that undermine the security of the American people and purport to criminalize information sharing between law enforcement entities,” he said.

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