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Cuomo calls feds' denial of New Yorkers' access to Global Entry a 'political stunt'

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

State officials are reacting to the news that the federal Department of Homeland Security is ending an expedited travel pass known as Global Entry for New Yorkers crossing into Canada or Mexico or arriving home to an airport from a foreign country.

Global Entry, part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service, allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers to get expedited clearance through automatic kiosks at select airports upon arrival into the United States.  

Now, the Department of Homeland Security said New Yorkers will no longer be eligible for this program, because of a recent law that allows undocumented immigrants in the state to obtain driver's licenses. Under that law, Customs and Border Protection as well as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, are prevented from access to New York's DMV database. 

Homeland Security said because the federal government no longer has access to that database, it can't properly vet New Yorkers who apply for global entry. 

The ban also prevents New Yorkers from applying for the NEXUS program, which allows expedited border crossings between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking on Albany public radio station WAMC, called it a "political stunt." And he said the law that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses, known as the Green Light law, is not changing.

"I don't want unlicensed people on our roads, it's a public safety issue," Cuomo said.

The leader of the state's Republican Party, Nick Langworthy, said the decision will be a hardship for people around the state, especially in western New York, where Langworthy lives. But he said it's the fault of Cuomo and Democrats in state government who approved the Green Light law.

"This has consequences," said Langworthy, who urged New Yorkers to call the governor to complain.

"When they are denied these programs at the federal level," Langworthy said, "they need to go back to their state government, look the governor in the eye and say, 'Why can't I do what people can do in other states?' "

Langworthy stopped short, though, of saying that Homeland Security was right to deny New Yorkers the expedited travel passes. But he said he believes the agency if it says New York's law makes the nation's borders less safe.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.