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A groundless grounding

A Global Entry kiosk at Los Angeles International

A Global Entry kiosk at Los Angeles International Airport A federal ban on Trusted Traveler enrollment affects New York State residents. Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS/Reed Saxon

President Donald Trump is stirring up anti-immigration, election-year rhetoric by punishing New Yorkers who want to use federal programs that expedite their travel time at airports and North American border crossings.

Trump’s acting head of the Department of Homeland Security last week announced on a prime-time Fox News opinion program that the department was suspending New York’s access to most Trusted Traveler Programs for new applicants and those looking to renew their status. That’s about 86,000 New Yorkers who wanted to take part in the successful program established after the 9/11 attacks led to intensive airport screening. DHS then established the pre-screening programs to better use its resources to detect those who shouldn’t be allowed to enter. Programs caught up in the crossfire are the Global Entry program for international air travelers and border crossing pre-screening for Mexico and Canada called NEXUS and SENTRI. That means the long lines at Kennedy Airport and other international airports and at bridges into Canada will get even longer for all arriving passengers.

The reason given by DHS for the drastic move is the state’s recently enacted Green Light Law, which permits applications for driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. Anticipating that U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement would want access to the photos, addresses and driving records of those who are undocumented, the New York law requires the federal government to subpoena the records.

In its letter to New York, DHS claimed the subpoena requirement thwarted its vetting efforts, going so far as to say that the law has a “crippling effect on the integrity of these programs.” However, a DHS memo that leaked on Monday and was later confirmed by the department as accurate listed the suspension of the Global Entry program as one of several measures considered as a way to punish “sanctuary” states like New York, New Jersey and a dozen others. The memo weighs the political and practical consequences of each retaliatory action. This illicit motivation is likely to aid New York in the litigation it started Monday to reverse the ban.

DHS’ actions make no sense otherwise. Trusted Traveler applicants must be U.S. citizens or have permanent residency status. Applicants must show for an interview with federal agents who work in the same department that would deport them if they were here illegally.

The only ones pulling a Trusted Traveler scam in New York are those who work in Washington, D.C.

— The editorial board