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Lawsuit: Trump Admin Committed ‘Unconstitutional and Unlawful’ Act of ‘Political Retribution’ Against NY

New York State Attorney General Letitia James promised a lawsuit last week and delivered one by Monday. James is accusing President Donald Trump’s administration of illegally targeting the state in an act of “political retribution” over New York’s “Green Light Law.”

President Trump’s direction of the Department of Homeland Security to deny New Yorkers expedited travel privileges appeared to make good on a State of the Union promise to counteract the actions of liberal states that “release dangerous criminal aliens to prey upon the public” (“sanctuary law“). New York’s new “Green Light Law” allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses is relevant here. The law, also known as the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, prohibits the Department of Motor Vehicles from providing most driver’s license information to DHS.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf wrote a letter to New York declaring the start of the new policy–that is, the denial of expedited travel privileges afforded by Trusted Traveler Programs (TTPs) such as Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST:

Although DHS would prefer to continue our long-standing cooperation 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.

The administration singled out New York for exclusion from TTPs, even though more than a dozen other states and D.C. have similar “Green Light laws.” New York might not be singled out for long, however.

The State of New York claims that such singling out is a brazen violation of the Tenth Amendment’s “guarantee of equal sovereignty among the states; the Tenth Amendment’s prohibition on coercive federal action; the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee; and the Administrative Procedure Act.”

“This lawsuit challenges the federal government’s unconstitutional and unlawful decision to prohibit New York residents from enrolling or re-enrolling in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler programs as political retribution for the State’s enactment of legislation that the federal government disfavors,” the opening lines of the lawsuit said.

The suit went on to allege that the federal government was essentially discarding a “key recommendation” of the 9/11 Commission and “intentionally” making the public “less safe”:

The creation of “a single system for speeding qualified travelers” was a key recommendation of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the “9/11 Commission”). Congress later codified this recommendation as a statutory mandate through the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which directed the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to “establish an international registered traveler program . . . to expedite the screening and processing of international travelers, including United States Citizens and residents, who enter and exit the United States.” 8 U.S.C. § 1365b(k)(3)(A).

Consistent with this statutory mandate, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) has implemented and administers a number of Trusted Traveler programs to expedite processing for pre-identified, pre-approved, lower-risk populations traveling internationally. As CBP has explained, “[t]hese programs provide modified screening for pre-approved members, improve security by increasing efficiencies in allocating screening resources, and facilitate legitimate trade and travel.”

Defendants’ decision to ban all New York residents from enrolling or re-enrolling in the Trusted Traveler programs not only defies this Congressional mandate and disregards the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, but also profoundly jeopardizes public safety for New Yorkers and all travelers. Defendants have intentionally made us less safe.

New York State is asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to vacate the expedited travel ban, declare it unconstitutional, declare it arbitrary and capricious and stop the defendants “and all their officers, employees, and agents, and anyone acting in concert with them, from implementing, applying, or taking any action whatsoever under the Trusted Traveler Ban.” The plaintiff also wants attorneys fees for the trouble the ban has caused.

Last week, James called the president an “authoritarian thug” in a press release.

“This is political retribution, plain and simple, and while the president may want to punish New York for standing up to his xenophobic policies, we will not back down,” James said. “We plan to take legal action and sue the Trump Administration for its unfair targeting of New York State residents. This new policy will negatively impact travelers, workers, commerce, and our economy, so we will fight the president’s shortsighted crusade against his former home. We will not allow New  Yorkers to be targeted or bullied by an authoritarian thug.”

Letitia James v Trump lawsuit by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Images via Drew Angerer/Getty Images, Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.