The State of New York implemented its “Green Light” law, which allows illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. Part of the law shields citizenship and immigration status information from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which was intended to encourage the immigrants to get the documentation so that they could legally operate vehicles. According to the Migrant Policy Institute, there were about 940,000 illegal immigrants in New York in 2016. But because the law shields such information on all New Yorkers applying for drivers licenses from DHS, it has created a problem.
The federal government uses that information to grant membership in trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS, and FAST, which allow millions of travelers to bypass long lines at customs and border checks. If DHS cannot verify the status of New Yorkers, how can it consider them trusted travelers? The short answer is, it can’t, which is why the DHS immediately suspended applications from New Yorkers trying to obtain trusted traveler status.
Acting DHS Chief Chad Wolf wrote in a letter to New York officials:
“Although DHS would prefer to continue our long-standing cooperative relationship with New York on a variety of these critical homeland security initiatives, 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.”