New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday accused the Trump administration of “political exploitation” for blocking the participation of New Yorkers in Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) over the controversial Green Light Law – and called for investigations into the matter a day after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dropped the ban.
“It has been six months since they started this political exploitation of New York. It’s been six months since they clearly had no basis whatsoever to do this,” Cuomo said at a news conference.
The agency announced on Thursday that it was dropping restrictions placed on TTP for New Yorkers in February over the state’s controversial Green Light Law after it said a crucial change had been made to the law.
That law allows illegal immigrants in New York to obtain driver’s licenses. But as part of that law, it also banned information sharing between the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) and federal immigration officers. Officials had claimed that the law was unique from similar laws in other states, but New York officials accused the government of political motivation in placing the ban only on New Yorkers.
On Thursday, DHS said in a statement that a change to the law made in New York’s budget in April, which allowed DMVs to share data for the purposes of TTP enrollment, allowed the agency to lift the ban.
But Cuomo pointed to court filings on Thursday in a lawsuit over the ban, in which government lawyers admitted that other states and territories had placed limits on information sharing as part of similar laws.
“Defendants deeply regret the foregoing inaccurate or misleading statements and apologize to the court and plaintiffs for the need to make these corrections at this late stage in the litigation,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said, according to The New York Times.
Cuomo on Friday said he had told acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli in a White House meeting in February that he would tweak the law to allow information sharing for the purposes of TTP, and had claimed multiple times that other states had similar restrictions.
Therefore, he concluded that the Trump administration was using DHS as a political tool.
“It is illegal what they did and I believe it violates Acting Secretary Wolf and Acting Deputy Cuccinelli’s … they violated their oath of office,” he said. “Nowhere in your oath of office does it say you can use government resources to advance political purposes.”
“I believe Mr. Wolf and Mr. Cuccinelli have possible criminal liability, I believe there is a civil liability, I believe it was a clear abuse of power for political purposes,” he said.
He went on to call for an investigation by the Department of Justice, and also that the state would be pursuing civil damages.
“You know that this agency played politics, you know that they lied, they admitted that they lied, can you allow this blatant, egregious misconduct to go uninvestigated?” he asked.
He also called on House Democrats to conduct an investigation into the matter, calling it “one of a barrage of political abuses” that New York has faced from the federal government.
Wolf, meanwhile, in the statement on Thursday, indicated that the federal government would continue its opposition to the law.
“The Green Light Law ultimately undermines the efforts of law enforcement officers, criminalizing their mission to secure the nation and the American people from threats and furthering the risk to their own lives,” he said. “When jurisdictions like New York fail to cooperate with federal authorities, they operate more like refugees from criminal behavior, not sanctuary havens.”